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The Silence and the Roar Paperback – March 5, 2013

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press; Tra edition (March 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590516451
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590516454
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #318,099 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Sirees takes on, with piercing insight, the huge themes of freedom, individuality, integrity, and, yes, love, in this beautiful, funny, and life-affirming novel...[The Silence and the Roar] indisputably connects to current events, but its value as art and political commentary is timeless. Sirees has written a 1984 for the 21st century."—Publishers Weekly, choice for Top Ten Books of 2013

"In this short, satiric fable, a formerly famous writer silenced by an authoritarian regime finds himself in a predicament where Kafka meets Catch-22."—Kirkus

“With biting humor Nihad Sirees reveals the extraordinary injustices of ordinary life under the oppressive rule of the "Leader." This country remains unnamed but the richly rendered story illuminates the hard reality of the many Middle Eastern states in political transition today."—Shahan Mufti, journalist and author of The Faithful Scribe

"A chillingly prophetic novel. In spare, razor-sharp prose, Sirees describes the effects of authoritative rule on the psyche of an unbreakable and irrepressible artist. Timely, powerful, and searing."—Randa Jarrar, author of Map of Home

"[A] powerful, prescient novel."—Publishers Weekly

"The theatre of the absurd that is everyday life in a totalitarian society is the subject of Nihad Sirees's urgent new novel, a searing political allegory in the tradition of Orwell and Camus. The portrait of a banned writer wandering the streets of a nameless dictatorship that Arab readers will recognize all too well, Sirees's book would be unbearably bleak if it weren't so funny: its narrator's caustic irreverence is his rebellion against the tyrant's roar that would reduce him to silence."—Adam Shatz, Contributing Editor, London Review of Books

"Mixing the absurd with the erotic, Sirees's novel is both political and delicious." —

"The wonderful thing about Sirees’s small that while it is absolutely and specifically about Syria, Sirees has made it large enough to incorporate your story as well."—Kenyon Review

"A dark, bitter satire about the leadership cult in an Arab dictatorship."—Susanna Schanda, Qantara

"Called the Kafka of the Middle East, [Sirees] dismantles with metaphoric touches all the apparatus of a system that compress the individual and his freedom of speech."—France Inter

"[Sirees] lasciviously mocks with a caustic irony the one he names 'the leader.'"—Le Journal du Dimanche

"Sirees’ novel can, and should, challenge us to expand our definition of what is personal, and move us to hear the stories of those whose lives are altered by the impact of political strife."—Think Christian

"It should be required reading."—The Guardian

"'s Sirees's light touch with his subject matter that lends The Silence and the Roar so much of its power."—The Guardian

About the Author

Nihad Sirees is a civil engineer who was born in the ancient Syrian city of Aleppo in 1950. His other novels include Cancer, The North Winds, and A Case of Passion. He has also written several plays and television dramas, the latest of which, Al Khait Al Abiadh (The First Gleam of Dawn), provides a frank depiction of the country's government controlled media and has been wildly acclaimed for its boldness and controversial nature. Branded an opponent of the government, publication of several of his works was forbidden by government censors.  His subsequent novels were published abroad. He left Syria in January, 2012, to avoid Syrian security services. Since that time he has lived in self-imposed exile in Cairo, Egypt.

Max Weiss is an Assistant Professor of History and Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. He is author of In the Shadow of Sectarianism: Law, Shi`ism, and the Making of Modern Lebanon, co-editor of Facing Fear: The History of an Emotion in Global Perspective and translator, most recently, of Hassouna Mosbahi, A Tunisian Tale and Samar Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lost John on January 29, 2013
Format: Paperback
The chief character and first person narrator of this short (40,000 word) novel, Fathi Abd al-Hakim Sheen, is a 31 year old writer who lives in a country that is not named but could well be Syria, the native country of its creator, Nihad Sirees. The country is ruled by a despotic dictator who much enjoys marches and other demonstrations orchestrated in his honor, devoting much of his own time to viewing them, and too much of the time and energy of his people to participating in them. Those not showing sufficient enthusiasm are beaten-up by his henchmen, and people are routinely crushed and trampled underfoot in the course of the marches. Those who step seriously out of line disappear for extended periods, eventually re-emerging bearing unmistakable signs of torture.

The Silence and the Roar was first published in 2004 (in Lebanon, not Syria - Sirees lives as an exile in Egypt), so the 2011 Arab Spring does not feature and the present Civil War in Syria is referred to only in a 2012 afterword written by the author for the English language edition.

The Leader's henchmen are known as Comrades, and in the background there is the Party. Those features, the size and frequency of the marches, the slogans and the obsessive pleasure the Leader takes in being treated as a deity suggest an element of North Korea too. Then again, the fear that a doctor has of being punished for merely treating the injured and reporting on how many die in the marches recalls recent events in Bahrain.

The roar, which Fathi finds close to intolerable, is the roar of the crowd as the weekly marches proceed, relayed and repeated ad nauseam throughout the day and throughout the week by radio and TV. The silence is more nebulous.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Patricia on April 21, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An interesting short fictional book examining the meaning and possibilities of roar (e.g., sound, propaganda, forced civilian marches) and silence (e.g., repression, stillness, absence, death). Set in Syria, the book unfolds with life under a dictatorship and the web of lies and propaganda (i.e., the roar) spun and woven to elevate the status and position of the leader at the detriment of the people. The protagonist is an author who has been banned from publishing his works and is hence forced into "silence" through manipulation in various ways. I thought of this as a Syrian 1984. Thought provoking book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 22, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
In the afterword of this book, Nihad Sirees, asks "Is it possible for the silence and the roar to co-exist?" Going on to state that The answer is most certainly yes, that in countries ruled by people obsessed with supremacy, authoritarians and those who are crazed by power, the ruler or leader imposes silence upon all those who dare to think outside the prevailing norm. Silence can be the muffling of one's voice or the banning of one's publication, or it can be the silence of a prison cell... or the grave.

The roar afflicts Fathi, the protagonist of this book from the moment he wakes and follows him throughout his day, it is in the voice of the hordes chanting their support in some spontaneously orchestrated marches celebrating the leader, it's the leader, or his underlings, calling from the Television and the Radio and the TV crews filming it all for the leader to watch at his pleasure. It's in the casting aside of classical Arabic music and replacing it with martial sounds. It is also in the stomp of the boot as it comes crashing down upon some individual deemed a traitor for not marching.

Silence can also be wisdom when all talk is praise for the Leader, as Fathi's girlfriend says as he lays in her arms relishing the quiet sanctuary of their love.

The Silence and the Roar follows Fathi, a writer no longer allowed to write, as he makes his way across town to visit his girlfriend and his mother on the twentieth anniversary of some undisclosed leader. Along the way he meets various characters all trying to make sense of the chaos. Fathi, although silenced, still seems to command respect and this doesn't sit well with the leader or his cronies.

It seems that Fathi's own silence is not enough, the government wants more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By TC on November 16, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Choose this book out of a required reading list for a Middle Eastern Politics class and am satisfied with my choice. It is short and sweet and gets the point across which only requiring 154 pages. If looking for a novel to analyze for political commentary, this is a good choice.
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