Reviews of Samar Yazbek’s ‘Woman in the Crossfire’

NOTE: Events with Samar Yazbek this week in the UK have been cancelled; she has been unable to get into the UK because of visa restrictions. Mosaic Rooms says they are working to reschedule.

My full-length review has gone in the Egypt Independent print edition and is now on the EI website. From the review:

Many have criticized the “hasty” Arabic literature that has emerged in the last 16 months, blossoming in both bookstores and online during the ongoing Arab revolutions.

Young Tunisian novelist Kamel Riahi has argued that literature should not be chained to politics, while celebrated authors Sonallah Ibrahim and Elias Khouryhave suggested that it is impossible to create literature about events that are still taking place around us.

And yet there is something about the intersection of literature and real life that compels readers to keep searching for books that resonate with, and expand beautifully on, the current moment — without cheapening either the literature or the moment.

Syrian novelist and TV host Samar Yazbek’s “A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution” is one of these rare books.

It was certainly assembled in haste, published in Arabic in 2011 and in English in July 2012. This haste shows in the book’s cracks and edges, its repetitions and omissions. But “A Woman in the Crossfire” is elevated beyond politics or reportage by Yazbek’s intimate style and her willingness to reveal and involve herself in the book.


In what could be seen as a metaphor for the treatment of Syrian protesters, Yazbek tells of a minority Alawite protester who was beaten so much that he could no longer speak. After some struggle, authorities finally took him to a hospital. There he was wheeled around, still unable to speak, while onlookers were told he was a Salafi terrorist and were invited to spit on him.

Read the whole review here.

Q&A with Yazbek:

Mashallah News: The Prison Inside Me

Other reviews:

The Guardian: A review of Woman in the Crossfire

Kirkus, PW