September 14, 2011
Corriere della sera reviews ‘In her mirrors’ – Yazbek’s book now out in Italian!

Corriere della sera reviews ‘In her mirrors’ – Yazbek’s book now out in Italian!

By Cecilia Zecchinelli, for Corriere della sera, 04.09.2011

She escaped from Syria after months of protests and hopes, then interrogations, death threats, anger and fear, especially for the eighteen year old daughter who ran away with her. And swears she will not set foot before “the regime has fallen,” unconsciously repeating the slogan of all the Arab revolutions: “Al Shab yurìd isqàt al Nizam”, the people wants the fall of the regime. “But I do not consider myself in real exile, because the end of Bashar Al Assad is near and I will return, along with thousands of Syrians exiled for decades, ever since his father Hafez came to power, waiting for the nightmare to end. I left my country on other occasions, but I always came back, taking up the fight. This time I will find a free Syria” she adds from Paris, where she arrived in July with the help of friends and a French visa. Samar Yazbek, 41, journalist, screenwriter for cinema and TV, mostly a writer.

She is known at home and abroad for her efforts against social and political taboos, and for her courageous books. Novels intimate only in appearance: the intertwined stories of relationships, often dramatic, hold a thousand references that tell more than many reportages, what it is like to live under dictatorship. As in “In her mirrors” an excellent translation from Elena Chiti, published in Beirut, and so far only distributed clandestinely in Syria.

“It is the love story between an officer who yields to compromise and comes very close to the President, and an actress, pure in her apparent lightness. They are both Alawis, the minority to which the Assad family belongs, as well as myself, an ancient culture and a faith that the regime has betrayed and exploits. Their love is deformed by the dictatorship, under which any attempt to sublimate human relationships fail. It is difficult for love to win over power, it needs a welcoming and tolerant society, not dominated by opportunism and corruption. Dictatorship kills love. ”

The book, says Samar, which sounds like pessimism “is only the portrait of a real country in the hands of a gang of military criminals. The demonstrations show this: from the beginning of the intifada, the bloodbath was expected, but the great monstrosity of the regime was a surprise even for me. ” As were the five “visits” to the police where the writer was convened, where political prisoners were shown: “20 year old men naked, suspended by their wrists, handcuffed, their bodies streaked with bright fresh blood, dry blood, with deep wounds, unconscious and kept in the tiny cell. Bodies without faces. ”

“They wanted to intimidate me because I wrote that the protests were peaceful. They wanted to show me that Syria is full of posters from the face of Hafez al-Assad. In Syria are all in danger. Anyone can be caught, tortured, killed. But the government can not incarcerate everyone, and the Syrian people will not give up, facing the bullets bare-chested, it is enjoying its best days as it finally breathes freedom. ” Currently, Samar is writing her new book, “a writing that blends storytelling and direct documentation of the protests I attended, the things I’ve heard from Damascus.” She is convinced that it will eventually be published in her country after the victory “which will come without foreign military aid – she adds – the Syrians do not want it. They are aware of the example of courage that they are giving to the world, and that will become a legend. But the also expect the political support of the international community that, finally, starts to manifest itself. They deserve it, don’t they? “