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The Silence and the Roar takes place in an unnamed Middle Eastern country resembling Syria. The story follows a day in the life of Fathi Chin, an author banned from publishing because he refuses to write propaganda for the ruling government.
On this day, the entire country has mobilized to celebrate the twenty year anniversary of the reigning despot. The heat is oppressive and loudspeakers blare as an endless, unbearably loud parade takes over the streets. Desperate to get away from the noise and the zombie-like masses, Fathi leaves his house to visit his mother, but en route stops to help a student who is being beaten by the police. Fathi’s ID papers are confiscated and he is forced to return home and told to report to the police station before night falls.
When Fathi turns himself in, he is led from one department to another in an ever-widening bureaucratic labyrinth. His only weapon against the irrationality of the government employees is his sense of irony. The Silence and the Roar is a funny, sexy, scathing novel about the struggle of an individual over tyranny. Tinged with a Kafkaesque sense of the absurd, it explores what it means to be truly free in mind and body, despite the worst efforts of the state to impose its will on its citizens.
“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
“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
“The wonderful thing about Sirees’s small book...is 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