Skip to content

Keywords

Articles tagged "Syrian Literature"

I Will Leave, without Lying Down on the Dewy Grass Even Once

“So does this mean I’ll leave this world without lying down on the dewy grass even once?” “There are more important things than that to think about, actually, but if that’s what’s on your mind, you could still do it. You’ve got at least three weeks left.” “But there’d be no point now. I’m not going to.” I didn’t let him say anything else, and I left before he could start with the trite words of consolation. In...

The Liberated Voice: Three Writers from Syria

Clearly the most important duty for the outsider looking to read new Syrian literature at the moment is not to expect a consistent voice or search for a monolithic take on the current period of Syrian history—or on anything else, for that matter. As a translator of Arabic literature and a sometime resident of Damascus with many Syrian friends, perhaps the most depressing question one gets asked is “What do Syrians / Syrian women / Arabs / young Arabs / ordinary Arabs think about...

A Bedtime Story for Eid

Translator’s note: Zaher Omareen’s tale takes us on a journey back to 1980s Hama, zooming in on some of the individual victims of the massacres and disappearances committed by the regime there, as told by a mother to her son. Between 10,000 and 40,000 people perished at the hands of Hafez al-Assad’s forces in a 27-day massacre in 1982: such was the climate of fear that it has only ever been referred to—if at all—as The Events. As this story is told in the...

I Am a Refugee

My apologies, Sir, That I come to you As a refugee. Accept me as a human being and not As a slave. Do not look down on me; Do not look me up and down. I am a poet; My testimonies plaster the walls, And people far and wide recite my poems. Will you accept me among you As a refugee? They destroyed my poems, along with the walls they hung upon; When they torched the verses, I burned with them. They broke my mind; They robbed my thoughts; They stripped our insides. Will you accept me among...

The Art of Expressing One’s Agony: An Interview with M. Raouf Bachir

Mohamed Raouf Bachir was a successful and celebrated writer of short stories in Syria in the sixties and seventies, becoming a member of the state-sponsored Arab Writers Union, on the Story and Novel Committee in 1974, and later honored as the “Sheikh of Aleppo’s Authors.” Now in his eighties, he has gone into exile in Turkey, having lost his home in Aleppo along with its contents, including his entire literary archive, and endured a traumatic exit from his homeland, like...

Falling Down Politely, or How to Use Up All Six Bullets Instead of Playing Russian Roulette

But where’s the skill in loading a gun with just one round of ammunition and pointing it at your head, trying your luck at deliverance? The ingenious thing would be to fill all six chambers and let every bullet kill you, one after the other. Bullet 1 Even though the voice ringing out from the stereo in your bedroom belongs to a singer who didn’t die at twenty-seven like those other musical geniuses—Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, that bunch—you still listen to him every...

Exile is Born at This Moment

Oh, my love, while you are in my breath, I am a statue of snow at the entrance to Damascus, with eyes closed, nose breathing anger, ears tuned to the noise of death, mouth speechless, trying to say: when blood is exiled, nothing binds it to the race. With you in my breath, my every moment is absurd. Uselessness rehearses images in my mind. On the screens I watch Metal snow falling. Ink is a dimming light. Eyes do not see yet fill with images. Oh, eyes, you are also covered by the snow of...

Bag of the Nation

I took the big bag that I had inherited from my grandfather down from the attic. It was brightly colored like a storm of rainbows. I hoisted it onto my back and went out into the street. I closed my eyes and began to choose samples at random from everything that was inside: humans and stones and dust and flowers and wind and the past and the present and the future. I carried the heavy bag on my back and set off on a far-ranging journey around the world, proudly carrying the overflowing...

Stories from “The Hedgehog”

My Invisible Friend My mother went to call on her neighbor Umm Baha’. She refused to take me with her, giving the excuse that women visit women and men visit men, and she left me at home alone, promising that she would only be gone for a few minutes. I told my cat that I was going to hang her, but she paid no attention to me, and kept on  grooming her fur with her tongue. I told the bitter orange tree in its tub of earth in the courtyard of our house that I was going to...

Blackness

We who were killed in all wars. In the Basus war our corpses dangled from the Turks’ gallows In Troy’s war We were behind the walls Blood dried in our veins Those besieging us never went away We were outside the walls Our skins were lacerated The besieged never surrendered We were chasing Abu Jahl We got his head and were killed by his enemies Wars wore us out So we froze in museums In times of peace We who were killed In the June war October war The...

The Fountain

When the inscrutable embraces sluggish time spreading its invisible light between two suspended shores rags of screams, a flight of black cloth spread a hollow vertigo down the native alley Sanctuaries in ruins, fathomless crypts, sepulchres with no remains merge above a beaded sheet wrapped around the earth’s flank The eye of silence peers and sinks into the snowed-up scene tears it up like a lightning-blade digs the earth to the bone a grave for the wandering...

The Masseuse and Her Adulterous Husband

The first time I saw her, I failed to notice her beauty. I met her at the spa. The receptionist led me to her but, in her presence, she kept her eyes lowered. With a sure and certain step, she walked ahead of me into the massage room. She raised her eyes and looked at me only once she had closed the door. And only then did I see her smile, and hear her greeting: "You're Arab? You are most welcome. Where are you from? We don't get many Arab tourists here at the spa. You are most...

Sprouts

As he did every morning, Bilal al-Dandashi headed to school. Arriving late, he entered trembling from fear of his teacher, whose rebuke would be crude and sarcastic. He discovered, however, that all the pupils and teachers were asleep. He tried to rouse them but to no avail. Feeling bored as he sat there alone, he yawned and fell asleep. While sleeping he dreamt he was in a school where the pupils were sleeping so soundly that they were oblivious to their teachers' angry cries. Then...

Neighing

Stop, and weep Not sadness over the corpse of the remnants of a cursed god and so not a sadness over a bird burdened with open space Don't take me- Don't leave me- maybe, my two friends, it's a wasteland without language maybe you too can postpone the probability of death a little for my prison cell is my body and the ode incidental...

Barada

Barada, oh father of all rivers Oh, horse that races the days Be, in our sad history, a prophet Who receives inspiration from his lord Millions acknowledge you as an Arab Prince . . . so pray as an imam Oh eyes of the gazelle in the desert of Sham Look down. This is the age of lavender They have detained you in the pavilions for a long time We have woven tents from tears God has witnessed that we have broken no promise Or secured protection for those we love For the...

Cooing

Your cooing wears me out at night- so wear me out. Like wine in the odes, you go on cooing and leave me what moves horses to tears, what weighs birds down with more wings, what singing follows Your coo is a cradle kept from rocking cornered by absence. Is the tree of the heart enough If our wind was shattered and we too were shattered with the wind? Is the tree of the heart made of our...

Damascus, What Are You Doing to Me?

1 My voice rings out, this time, from Damascus It rings out from the house of my mother and father In Sham. The geography of my body changes. The cells of my blood become green. My alphabet is green. In Sham. A new mouth emerges for my mouth A new voice emerges for my voice And my fingers Become a tribe 2 I return to Damascus Riding on the backs of clouds Riding the two most beautiful horses in the world The horse of passion. The horse of poetry. I return after sixty...

Ode of Sorrow

  The blue of depth is sadness and the depth of blue-sadness and a star quivering tears in this space- Language at the peak of clarity unfurls the night . . . Indeed, the moment is wounded by a dream to finish the questioning, and departs burdened by the prophets and the neighing of memories to come. * * * The...

Darkness

The remarkable thing didn't happen within the half hour the audience spent waiting for the show to begin but, rather, in that short fleeting rupture of time during the show itself. Last Tuesday wasn't any kind of a holiday, neither weekly nor official, just a regular day of the week. The film as well was one of those kinds of Arabic films that had multiplied over the years. Even the theater was like all those other run-of-the-mill theaters spread throughout Damascus . . . and...

The Lanterns of Seville

To Julienne Peters of Brussels, who was moved to tears by the beauty of the Alcazar in the Seville of the Arabs, I dedicate these lanterns. "Would you look down on a cousin of yours if he addressed you in a language other than his own?" said Professor Alsido—for this is how the dancer with the magical eyes had introduced me to him—as he gulped his first drink. "I've heard you speak fluent French, so allow me to converse with you in that language." I nodded in agreement and...

Ahem

It wasn't his cough reaching me from the inner cells across the dark, narrow hall that struck my interest more than the slamming of a door or the resonating ring of a pot falling on the hard floor. Rather, it is what followed that changed the sense of the trivial event and imbued it with meaning. Shortly after the coughs, sharp and successive, emerged from the heart of the hall, I was coincidently afflicted by my own coughing fit—less harsh though, and just about over when two...

Fatima

Fatima did not capture my attention simply because she was a beggar-child. Alas, I was rather accustomed, in spite of myself, to the sight of children begging, pestering passersby in alleyways and on streets, reminding me each time how vile the taste of life could be. But something in Fatima, who could not have been more than ten years old, I thought, crippled my thinking and provoked my emotions, and each time I met her, or when she came to my office, I felt the eruption of a muted...

An Alphabetical Formation

Alif You're not beginning . . . It's an eternity, you know . . . I mean, the ever-after, you know No matter, then. Raise your cavalry But do not leave behind the horizon, Or the sea . . . or the soil lines for beginnings, finish me off on a wire. You are not beginning now, watch out . . . anyone who begins is deceived Ba We haven't yet finished the elegy for the century, We haven't exposed blood, flowing from poetry, or a tear from prose,...

The Other Body / The Other Home

So that I can speak of myself and to this time, and even further-so that I can converse with days gone by, I find nothing more fitting than the parable of migration. Maybe because migration is another name for exile made gentler by the alphabet. Maybe because migration is another name for passage. Maybe because it is another articulation to inaugurate a place and adopt it. Maybe because it is another embodiment of loss. As if migration is another matter. Isn't the word hejira the...

Like what you read? Help WWB bring you the best new writing from around the world.