Next up as part of my contribution to the Middle East Reading Challenge is the novel The Silence and the Roar by Syrian writer Nihad Sirees. Set in the capital city of an unnamed Arab country, it’s the story of blacklisted writer Fathi and his somewhat futile attempts to maintain his sense of freedom and individuality despite the machinations of the almighty dictator and his ever-present secret police. Fathi’s life mainly consists of sexual encounters with his girlfriend, avoiding government-orchestrated street rallies, and wishing he could get his writing past the regime’s sensors. One day his rather mundane life takes an odd turn when he learns his widowed mother is engaged to marry the dictator’s security chief. And if things can’t get any stranger, he’s told the regime is using the impending marriage to co-opt him into the dictatorship in hopes of making him its star propagandist.
While it didn’t completely rock my world, I thought The Silence and the Roar came across as being a pretty decent novel. The action moved fairly quickly, meaning to me anyway it’s well-written and well-translated from the original Arabic. Sirees’ slightly Kafkaesque approach in telling the story seems both an entertaining and appropriate way to lampoon the absurdities of a modern Middle Eastern dictatorship. I’m thankful that I stumbled upon this novel during a recent library visit. It makes a nice contribution to not only the Middle East Reading Challenge but also the Books in Translation Reading Challenge, the Global Reading Challenge, the Library Books Reading Challenge and the Back to School Reading Challenge. And for that, I’m thankful as well.