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And there was complete silence: Silence as theme and narrative strategy in three Syrian novels.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Asian, Middle Eastern and Turkish Studies.
2016 (English)In: La littérature à l´heure du Printemps arabe. / [ed] Sobhi Boustani, Rasheed El-Enany, Walid Hamarneh, Paris: Éditions Karthala , 2016, 211-226 p.Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In Syria all forms of cultural expression are strictly controlled by the state. (See e.g. Miriam Cooke: Dissident Syria. Making oppositional arts official. Duke University Press, 2007.) However, after the death of president Hafiz al-Asad in 2000 a new generation of Syrian writers have started to write and publish books in which they in a more open and direct way than former generations approach subjects that are regarded as sensitive and dangerous. By pronouncing and bringing out into the open things whose existence has been hidden and forcibly pushed back into the shadows they challenge the silence imposed by the political system as well as by traditional society. ”The silences created in the spaces between the lines of contemporary Syrian writing” [Mohja Kahf: ”The Silences of Contemporary Syrian Literature” in World Literature Today,75:2, Spring 2001, 225-236] are now in these texts to a greater degree than before being spoken out.


In this article we look closer into three novels by three Syrian women novelists: Kamā yanbaghī li-nahr, 2003, [As is appropriate for a river] by Manhal al-Sarrāj, Ṣilṣāl, 2007, [Clay] by Samar Yazbek and Ḥurrās al-hawā’, 2009, [Guardians of air] by Rūzā Yāsīn Ḥasan. All three of these novels describe in different ways a society that is suffering under enforced ”silence” (al-ṣamt): silence on political repression (thus e.g. Manhal al-Sarrāj’s novel is centered on the silence on ”the events” in Hama in 1982) but also silence on societal and religious oppression of people in general and of women in particular.


The purpose of this paper is to identify the different kinds of silence that are dealt with  in the novels and also to discuss the strategies used by the writers when approaching these ”silences”, when identifying and describing them and by so doing also trying to break them.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Paris: Éditions Karthala , 2016. 211-226 p.
Keyword [en]
modern Arabic literature
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-133005ISBN: 978 -2-8111-1649-1OAI: diva2:956083
La littérature à l´heure du Printemps arabe. Conference organized by EURAMAL (European Association for Modern Arabic Literature), 2012 at l´Institut National des langues et civilisations orientales (INALCO) Paris
Available from: 2016-08-29 Created: 2016-08-29 Last updated: 2016-08-29

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Ottosson al-Bitar, Astrid
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