Ascension to Death is the first work of acclaimed Syrian writer Mamdouh Azzam to be published in English. Set against the backdrop of a conservative Druze region of southern Syria, this is the tragic story of the orphan Salma, who falls in love with a boy from her village but is then forced into an arranged marriage.
The controller of Salma’s fate is her tyrannical uncle, who, as her guardian and a powerful community leader with governmental ties, is all too pleased to unload the burden of his brother’s daughter onto the first man to propose. As Salma desperately tries to escape the marriage, the novel follows her attempt to flee with her lover. But after her family colludes with the authorities against her, Salma finds herself trapped in a nightmarish ordeal of imprisonment, torture, and abandonment.
One of the most beloved Syrian novels of our time, Ascension to Death is a dark, inventive, and unflinchingly honest look at both the best and the worst to be found in human nature and our modern world.
Using Arabic-language sources that have never before been studied or analyzed, Max Weiss paints a nuanced picture of sectarianism in Lebanon under the French Mandate. He demonstrates that sectarianism evolved long before the phenomenon known as “political Shi’ism.” This groundbreaking and deeply researched book is not merely narrative history; it also incorporates some of the latest critical theory about religious modernity and colonialism. Weiss illustrates the power of sectarianism as both a conceptual category and as a set of practices which can be a force for good and positive change as well as for division and destruction. By foregrounding historical forces that shape and direct sectarianism, he also shows how dimensions of sectarianism that no longer serve a society can be overcome with time.
A well-known novelist and journalist from the coastal city of Jableh, Samar Yazbek witnessed the beginning four months of the uprising first-hand and actively participated in a variety of public actions and budding social movements. Throughout this period she kept a diary of personal reflections on, and observations of, this historic time. Because of the outspoken views she published in print and online, Yazbek quickly attracted the attention and fury of the regime, vicious rumours started to spread about her disloyalty to the homeland and the Alawite community to which she belongs. The lyrical narrative describes her struggle to protect herself and her young daughter, even as her activism propels her into a horrifying labyrinth of insecurity after she is forced into living on the run and detained multiple times, excluded from the Alawite community and renounced by her family, her hometown and even her childhood friends. With rare empathy and journalistic prowess Samar Yazbek compiled oral testimonies from ordinary Syrians all over the country. Filled with snapshots of exhilarating hope and horrifying atrocities, she offers us a wholly unique perspective on the Syrian uprising. Hers is a modest yet powerful testament to the strength and commitment of countless unnamed Syrians who have united to fight for their freedom. These diaries will inspire all those who read them, and challenge the world to look anew at the trials and tribulations of the Syrian uprising.