This week, award-winning Syrian novelist Khaled Khalifa’s new novel, No Knives in This City’s Kitchenswill be published by Dar al-Ain in Egypt:

1000441_562838447091465_1044610516_nKhalifa had been close to finishing the novel before the uprising in Syria, and was hoping to produce a work, he told al-Akhbar, that would create a “narrative and stylistic distance” from his previous three novels. The fantastically evocative title is, according to the Financial Times, “a reference to the scorched earth politics and economics of Syria’s ruling Ba’ath party and the resulting crushing of people’s aspirations.”

Khalifa also said of the novel, in an interview with Jeune Afrique“: “It will discuss the opposition between the people and the regime, in the last forty years. The country has always belonged to someone else and now the Syrians want it back.”

This is Khalifa’s first novel since his brilliant In Praise of Hatred (2006; Eng 2012), which was longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

Khalifa also recently published a piece in English PEN that I’d missed, where he about censorships and self-censorships, co-optations and silences, and yet:

Despite the bloodshed and rows of martyrs; despite the regime destroying cities with scud missiles, war planes, heavy artillery, and every other means possible – despite all this, Syrians don’t stop their spirited chanting, painting, and writing in protest at the current situation.

Optimism still throbs through Khalifa’s writing:

This shock is still on-going. It will continue as long as the revolution continues and it is able to explore new methods of resisting dictatorships, which maintain a culture of exclusion and censorship, and Islamic hard-line regimes.

The blood of martyrs has given this fledgling new Syrian culture a great push. It has destroyed the culture of silence and prevented new forms of hypocrisy taking root in Syrian civil society – our society, for which we all in Syria wish revolution and ensuing freedom.

More about the new novel:

In Al Ahram: “لا سكاكين في مطابخ هذه المدينة”.. رواية جديدة للكاتب السورى خالد خليفة

The piece on English PEN:

Written in blood: The beginnings of a new Syrian society