Max Weiss’s translation of Nihad Sirees’s 2004 novel “الصمت والصخب” — The Silence and the Roar — is due out from Pushkin Press in January of next year.
The translator, Weiss, has two excellent recent translations in circulation: A Tunisian Tale, a novel by Hassouna Mosbahi (2011), and Samar Yazbek’s Woman in the Crossfire (2012). For the Aleppo-born author, this will be his first full-length translation into English.
A few excerpts of Sirees’s work have appeared in English, and The Silence and the Roar has been translated into German — appearing as Ali Hassan’s Intrigue in 2008.
According to Sirees’s website, “The main character [of The Silence and the Roar] is a well-known author banned by the authorities from writing and publishing. He retreats into the sanctuary of his home with his loved ones while the noise of political rallies rages outside.”
According to a piece about Syrian authors in Qantara, Sirees’s 2004 novel:
…is a dark, bitter satire about the leadership cult in an Arab dictatorship. It tells of a day in the life of Fathi Schin, a melancholy author who has been forbidden to write. The day in question is the twentieth anniversary of the day the “Great Leader” came to power.
The streets of the city are blocked by a sweating, slow-moving river of people; every second person holds aloft a placard bearing the image of the leader; people with megaphones bellow out cues that are answered by idiotic rhyming declarations of love and devotion to the leader chanted by a chorus of voices: “Two, four, six, eight … leader, you are truly great!”
Those who do not join the mobile propaganda exercise winding its way through the streets, watch the orchestrated event on television at home with the volume turned up as high as it will go in order to avoid being branded unpatriotic. Fathi Schin is the only one who believes he can keep out of it. But the regime has had enough of his silence and instructs him to become a cog in the propaganda machinery.
And in a review on Qantara, Kersten Knipp writes: “Siris’ great mastery is in turning this fear into humorous capital and in writing a book in which even humour harbours its own horror.”
Sirees has also written a number of plays, TV series, and children’s dramas. Sirees is not a stranger to US audiences: He participated in the International Writers Program at the University of Iowa in 2005, and in 2006 spent a semester as writer in residence at the University of Maryland, where he taught screenwriting.
Sirees in English:
The text of Sirees’s talk at the Iowa City Public Library in 2005, where he repeated some sketchy statistics about Arabs and reading, but never mind and skip past that to the comparison of writing for the screen vs. writing for print.
The Silence and the Roar: