Farewell, Damascus by Ghada Samman (tr. Nancy Roberts)

a nutshell: a fervent ode to liberty, this novel follows an idealistic young writer – Zain – who strives to be independent in (and ultimately beyond) circles that wants to repress her

a line“A homeland should have enough room for everybody, even for people who have the audacity to criticise … As it is, our coffee shops and restaurants have ears planted in their walls. They’re even planted in the walls of our lungs, our arteries, and our fear-sickened souls.”

an image: towards the end, Samman lovingly daubs a colourful picture of Beirut’s hive mind in contrast to the conservatism of Damascus; roundtable discussions send conversation and laughter through night air “like sparks from a bonfire”

a thought: the last few chapters are disappointingly inconsistent with Zain’s character, and felt like it betrayed the earlier progressive nature of the book

a fact: Samman (b. 1942) established her own publishing house, Ghada al-Samman Publications, to circumvent censorship – looking at a biography, Zain’s story is very reminiscent of the author’s own


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