City of Sparrows

translated by Agnes Broomé

Growing up in Syria in the 1990s, Sami’s childhood was unremarkable. His day-to-day life largely sheltered him from the horrors of the authoritarian government, until he founded a successful internet company—which landed him on the regime’s radar. Suddenly Sami finds himself in jail, then forcibly enlisted into the Syrian army during the early days of a fast-growing civil uprising.

Assigned to the mapmaking division, Sami yearns to simply serve his time and go home, even as he finds himself literally charting the course of the army’s response to the growing revolt. The situation that hits him full-force when he receives a text from his girlfriend: “They’re shooting at us.”

With that, Sami realizes that it is not enough to endure Assad’s regime — he has to resist. He has to return home, to the city that will become known as the “capital of the revolution.”

Based on true events as told to journalist Eva Nour, City of Sparrows is the story of coming of age under siege and the power of hope in the face of unfathomable loss.

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Eva Nour is a journalist writing under a pseudonym. She was inspired to write City of Sparrows, her debut novel, by meeting and falling in love with the real-life “Sami,” with whom she currently lives in Paris.

Agnes Broomé is a literary translator and Preceptor in Scandinavian at Harvard University, with a PhD in Translation Studies. Her translations include August Prize winner The Expedition by Bea Uusma, August Prize nominee The Gospel of Eels by Patrik Svensson, and international bestseller For the Missing by Lina Bengtsdotter.

City of Sparrows brings to life the human, inside story of one of the most brutal sieges in recent history, with Syria’s Assad trying to break the will of young rebels daring to stand up to the dictator and taking refuge in an ancient city. The novel is as revealing as it is inspiring with its depictions of the lengths heroes will go to in search of personal freedom.” — Mark Sullivan, author of Beneath a Scarlet Sky

“An absolutely riveting novel . . . a rare and precious humanizing of the terrible conflagration in Syria. Eva is a writer of the first order and this is a searing and incredibly important book, storytelling at its best.” — Donal Ryan, author of All We Shall Know

“It’s been a long time since a book kept me up all night, but City of Sparrows did. A tender, yet wild and tangible testimony bearing witness to the tragedy in Syria.” — Theodor Kallifatides, author of The Siege of Troy: A Novel

“An artistically flawless novel, written as an act of protest, but also as a poetic declaration of love.” — Svenska Dagbladet

“City of Sparrows is a study in survival and a portrayal of the utter hell of the Syrian war. The novel reveals what can never be told by the news reports.” — Landskrona Posten