July 2, 2014
Syrian writers and artists publish to protest tyranny
by Benjamin Sandman
The work of over 50 Syrian artists and writers has been collected in Syria Speaks, a new book published in the UK by Saqi.
The anthology contains poems, cartoons, posters, photographs, artwork, and writing––all produced by people that challenge a culture of violence and tyranny. The civil war in Syria, which began in 2011, sparked this outpouring of creativity.
Malu Halasa, one of the book’s editors, was interviewed by M. Lynx Qualey at the site Arabic Literature (In English). Halasa argued that art has a crucial role to play in the Syrian conflict:
“[People] think that culture has no place in conflict. And yet culture and art is the very place where people find solace. […] Dreaming is subversive in a situation like Syria at the moment.”
A major goal of the collection, Halasa continues, is to combat “the growing silence on Syria.” Many English-language readers, she says, have not experienced Syrian literature––largely due to censorship under the Assad regime, a subject addressed in Nihad Sirees’s novel The Silence and the Roar. Compounding this silence, Syrian books are translated into English with less frequency than books from other countries in the region, like Egypt. Sirees’s novel is a good example; written in 2004, it was not translated into English until 2013.
Already, the book release of Syria Speaks has raised awareness. A series of readings and discussions took place last week all over England––in London, Bristol, Oxford, Liverpool, Bradford, and Durham.
One good sign: tickets to the event in London sold out.
Ben Sandman is a Melville House intern