Magazine article World Literature Today

What to Read Now: Syria

Magazine article World Literature Today

What to Read Now: Syria

Article excerpt

Combining memoir, history, and political analysis, Nikolaos van Dam's recommended books both bring to life the dayto- day struggles of a single family and provide broader insight into Syria today.

Fragments of Memory

Hanna Mina

A fascinating memoir by one of Syria's best-known authors. I n Fragments of Memory (2004), Hanna Mina describes the hardly imaginable poverty in which he and his family had to live: under a fig tree, on a dusty roadside, constantly exposed to the sun and extreme hunger. Mina provides a dramatic, indepth, insider's view of the miserable, early-twentieth-century life of rural people living under feudal domination, almost as slaves, becoming indebted to their landlords even further. When the silkworm industry collapsed as a result of modern technology elsewhere, the farmers' lives, already downtrodden to the furthest extreme, were affected even more.

The Struggle for Arab Independence

Patrick Seale

One of the best books on Greater Syria, The Struggle for Arab Independence (2010) provides insight into the present-day country in its much wider regional context, including Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and Palestine. Seale makes clear in a deeper historical context the roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Arab nationalism, and the negative effects of colonialism, using a minutely detailed and fascinating style while interweaving memoirs with superb analysis. …

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