In White Carnations, the Syrian fiction writer Musa Rahum Abbas, revered in the Arab world, makes his English language debut with 101 tales that sketch life inside and outside Syria during the revolution that began in 2011.
The prose in White Carnations is etched, distilled, essential. It recalls curious fables from distant foreign lands. Delicious vignettes and anecdotes are followed with the most absurd and horrific headlines of the Syrian revolution. Other tales document the furious efforts of non-poor Syrians who have escaped for a few weeks or forever. They are burrowing into superficially normal lives in the modern world. Yet their lives are not normal, because they are utterly unable to release the memories of pain and cruelty that they carry with them, like an emotional passport.
Cune Press is presenting White Carnations as a companion to The Dusk Visitor. The scholar, translator, and creative writer Musa Al-Halool is the co-translator of White Carnations along with the delightful academic Sanna Dhahir. Note that Musa Al-Halool is the author of The Dusk Visitor.
Both books are “light reading” on a serious subject. They explore through the tool of short fiction the fascist style that can slowly and decisively overtake democratic governments. (Yes, Syrian democracy emerged when the French left in 1946. After several years of free elections, an era of coup and counter-coup mixed with democratic maneuvering held sway as the Ba’ath Party gained strength. In 1963, the Ba’ath ousted Nazim Qudsi, considered the last democratically elected president of Syria).
Whereas The Dusk Visitor’s commentary applies to several security state governments in North Africa and the Middle East, White Carnations focuses on the eruption of violence and displacement within a single country, Syria, and follows its expats as they struggle in exile.
Both books hold lessons for readers who value an open civil society, the rule of law, an independent judiciary, and democratic elections as a way to transfer power within democratic institutions.