Re­view of ‘Farewell Da­m­as­cus’ by Ghada Sam­man

Arab News - - SPORTS -

Sam­man’s reper­toire, but within the lit­er­ary arena. Orig­i­nally pub­lished in Ara­bic in 2015, the book was then trans­lated into English by Nancy Roberts and pub­lished by Darf Publishers in 2018.

There is last­ing hu­mor in the con­tra­dic­tions Zain finds her­self in when ex­plor­ing Da­m­as­cus’s old, tra­di­tional neigh­bor­hoods and its deep pa­tri­archy.

As a 17-year-old who falls in love with a rich young man and fights to marry him, she is re­buked by her fam­ily’s older gen­er­a­tion of aunts and un­cles who tell her that “you’re not al­lowed to get to know some­one be­fore you marry him. You’ve got to sign the mar­riage con­tract first!” But Zain, with her fa­ther’s per­mis­sion, mar­ries the man she loves, only to find a year later, that she does not want to be mar­ried any more.

When news spreads that she is get­ting a di­vorce, she is be­rated by her fam­ily’s younger gen­er­a­tion of cousins who had only just mus­tered up the courage to tell their par­ents about the peo­ple they loved and wanted to marry. Now the par­ents are us­ing Zain as an ex­am­ple to op­pose their chil­dren’s spousal choices.

Un­afraid and un­apolo­getic, Sam­man’s book is im­pact­ful, told with ease and wit. She writes with clar­ity as she de­scribes Da­m­as­cus, with its vi­brant his­tory, an­cient cor­ners and the so­ci­etal con­tra­dic­tions that fall within its walls.

Sam­man does an in­cred­i­ble job of writ­ing about Zain and her dreams of seek­ing free­dom and in­de­pen­dence in a world that does not al­low many women that priv­i­lege.

Sam­man’s book is about de­sires ver­sus re­al­ity. It is about what one wants in life and then what life gives you. Through Zain, Sam­man shows that life is what one makes of it, what­ever the out­come.

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