Syrian writer Samar Yazbek has been awarded the Pen Pinter award for Writer of Courage on the nomination of Carol Ann Duffy. Yazbek, now in exile in Paris, writes about her experiences in Syria in “A Woman in the Crossfire” and was in discussion with Peter Clark at the Frontline Club in July.
“What is this madness?” she writes. “Death is a mobile creature that now walks on two legs. I hear its voice, I can stare right at it. I am the one who knows what it tastes like, who knows the taste of a knife against your throat, the taste of boots on your neck … I am no longer afraid of death. We breathe it in. I wait for it, calm with my cigarette and coffee.”
Last year I wrote this on my previous blog:
Writers capture the essence of place and time. The tragic events in Syria are underreported by the media. Daily the government is killing protestors seeking nothing more than freedom. As with the other North African and Arab countries Syria is showing what happens when trust breaks down within a country between the leaders and the people of a country. Egypt and Tunisia have started the long slow path to normality. Syria has not. Yet.
But what it is like to be in Syria now? We hear little from those in the country. Samar Yazbek is a novelist, screen writer and was banned from leaving Syria last month. In a recent interview she said:
“In recent weeks people have finally broken the silence and fear, I myself have participated in the demonstrations”, she says. “We have found the courage to ask for freedom and democracy, an end to emergency laws that oppress us since 1963. We demand real political parties and elections, the right to express ourselves. But the repression is very hard, with many deaths and arrests. As always, the regime makes promises, but does not maintain them.The army and security forces control everything.” More than that of the streets, she says, is the fear of speaking” ” …….. “The solution must come from within. From our youth who are the most important force, from women activists. In all there is much awareness and commitment, refusal to divide ethnic groups or religions.”
As a writer she puts her thoughts into words. Here is the opening of a recent work published on Babelmed , ” Awaiting Death”
It is not true that death will have your eyes when it comes.
It is not true that the desire for death is like the desire for love. These two are not identical, yet they both float in nothingness.
In love, one identifies oneself with another person, whereas in death one identifies with one’s existence and the metamorphosis from tangible substance to an abstract idea. People have always seen death as being more noble than their own existence: if not, why venerate the dead? The deceased, who was here among us only a few minutes ago, is at once turned into nothing but a spark.
I would not say that I am calm now, but I am silent. I can hear my heart thumping like the echo of a distant explosion: more clearly than the sound of bullets, screaming kids, and wailing mothers, and even more clearly than the trembling voice of my mother when she tells me not to go out into the street.
The assassins are everywhere.
Death is everywhere.
In the village,
In the city,
By the seaside.
Assassins are taking over both humans and places, and they are terrorizing people. They come to the homes of our neighbours, telling them that we are about to kill them. Then, they turn back at us crying: They will kill you!
I am the accidental visitor to this place. I am the improvisation of life. I do not belong to my own community.
Continue reading at www.babel.net