• The Book of the Sultan’s Seal, Strange Incidents from History in the City of Mars

     

    It’s hard to imagine a debut more thrilling than Youssef Rakha’s groundbreaking The Book of the Sultan’s Seal. The novel is made up of nine chapters, each centered on a drive our hero, Mustafa Çorbacı, takes around greater Cairo—city of post-9/11 Islam. In a series of visions, Çorbacı encounters the spirit of the last Ottoman sultan and embarks on a mission the sultan assigns him. Çorbacı’s trials shed light on the contemporary Arab Muslim’s desperation for a sense of identity: The Book of the Sultan’s Seal is both a suspenseful, erotic, riotous novel and an urgent, unparalleled examination of accounts of Muslim demise.

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  • Always Coca-Cola

     

    Always Coca-Cola is the story of three very different young women attending university in Beirut: Abeer, Jana, and Yasmine. The narrator, Abeer Ward (fragrant rose, in Arabic), daughter of a conservative family, admits wryly that her name is also the name of her father’s flower shop.

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  • Sarmada

     

    Three women struggle against the forces of society, family, and passion in a small Druze village in the south of Syria as the country itself struggles against the forces of the Ottoman Empire, the French Empire, and then the Baath. The village of Sarmada is an enchanting place, but the people who live there don’t much notice it.

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  • The Book of the Sultan’s Sea...

  • Always Coca-Cola...

  • Sarmada...

 

Review of Sarmada by Metro

The first title from new imprint Swallow Editions, which is devoted to publishing the works of emerging Arab writers in translation, is Syrian writer Fadi Azzam’s luminous evocation of a fictional  – and fantastical – Druze village. There is a framing narrative about a writer in Paris meeting a woman, Azza, who claims her soul has been transmigrated from a Sarmada woman but the story is mainly told through the stories of three Sarmada inhabitants: Hela, Farida and Buthayna. Their stories encompass tragedy, brutality, miracles, magic, love, sex and family relationships. But it is the village of Sarmada that is the central character.

The novel is cleverly constructed and lavishly executed, and Sarmada’s mystical, magical aspects are rendered as everyday aspects of an extraordinary place.  Azzam’s writing is lyrical and clear, and he draws the reader with graceful charm from brutal murder to mass melancholy, to erotic delight.

Tina Jackson – The Metro