In the crossfire: Syrian revolution diaries
Dar al adab, Lebanon, Beirut, 2012, 302 pages
In this document, Samar Yazbek offers a precise and personal account of the Syrian uprising, started in March 2011. The book covers the uprising’s first 5 months. Samar Yazbek describes her experience of the events as they unfold on the ground, and the exceptional pressures she was subjected to. She meets with released detainees, records their testimony, and explains who the revolutionaries are, where they come from, how they got organized.
With her usual finesse and minuteness, Samar recounts the horrors of violence. ‘I will only believe my own eyes’ is the precept that motivates her actions. As soon as she hears the rumors of a protest and the consequent repression, she books a taxi and goes on the ground, looking for a confirmation. She discusses with the protesters, the villagers, and sometimes even the policemen and militaries, trying to shed some light on the incidents.
Week after week, she records the events. Each chapter is a detailed account of the rumors she was able to verify in person, of information she was able to take from the medias or from close friends, and events she experienced.
Written in the first person, this text is a unique and precise document of the popular uprising in Syria, where, today still, international media has a limited access.
Literary but simple and fluent, her writing style powerfully vehicles emotion, images and information. It also gives a palatable voice to the text. The reader easily slip into the narrator’s shoes, as she slowly opens for us a window on exceptionally violent and complex events.
Two huge men entered the room. They stood in readiness, in plainclothes. One of them stood to the right and the other to the left. With a signal from his eyes, each of them seized me by the shoulders, though not roughly. They seized me as if I were some object, easy for them to move. I did not resist when they started to lift me out of my chair. I even stood up, surprised at what was happening. Would they finally arrest me, putting this nightmare to an end? That would be easier on me than this madness.
He gave the officer a jaunty look, and I looked at him not knowing what was next. I tried to read some good news in their eyes, body movements, and demeanor. Talk doesn’t interest me. He was neutral, looking some spot in the spacious room. The two of them put a band of cloth over my eyes, or that is what I assumed, because my world suddenly went black. Moments later, I was blindfolded, scenting a strange smell from the cloth. A strong arm seized me, an arm sure of its grasp of my elbow, of its push and pull. It moved sluggishly. Then I straightened up and shouted, “Where are you taking me?”
He answered calmly, and I heard a certain buzz.
“For a little drive, to improve your writing.”
I was certain they had decided to arrest me; that admission was preferable to the alternative, and an end to all the operations of the madness he had delighted in torturing me with for days.
I pretended to be composed, wanting to attest that what happened a month ago, and even now just a nightmare I would awake from at any moment.
It was less than two minutes; all these thoughts passed faster than that, because I would have collapsed had it not been for the man on the right and the other to the left moving me along, which they were still doing with fastidious calm. They must have been ordered to do that, but when I almost fell and they caught me, I knew we were going down some stairs. One of them slackened on me it appeared the staircase was narrow. I tried to peek around the blindfold, but it was firm and tight. My breathing grew tighter; I felt we had descended several flights. I was not sure, but a nausea started to rack my body, and rotten smells mingled with odors I had never smelled before. At last we stopped. A burning pain shot up my lower back and I shivered. I knew my fragile body. A hand undid the blindfold from my eyes. I did not expect what awaited me to be horrible, despite everything I had read about the world of prisons, I tried to write about what I had heard and imagined, but all that meant nothing the moment I opened my eyes. There was a long passage. I could scarcely see the cells lining it; I could scarcely believe this was a real place and not a space in my mind, sick from writing. This was real! A passage down which two persons could barely pass side by side, the far end enveloped in blackness. A passage bereft of faces, I looked behind me and saw nothing, and before me was utter blackness. A passage with no beginning or end, suspended in nothingness, with me in the middle, and closed doors.
In the crossfire | translation sample by Peter Theroux for The Guardian
RAYA has world rights to this title.
Sold rights: Update July 2015
French, Buchet Chastel, 2012
German, Hanser, Nagel Kimche, 2012
English, Haus Publishing, UK, 2012
Turkish, Timas, Turkey, 2012
Dutch, Nigh & Ditmar, Netherlands, 2012