22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Samar Yazbek

Portrait Samar Yazbek
© Hartwig Klappert

Samar Yazbek was born in 1970 in Jableh, a small town on Syria’s Mediterranean shore. She studied Arabic literature in Lattakia and today worked as an editor for www.nesasy.org. This website is dedicated to human rights, especially the rights and freedoms of women. She also edited and presented a cultural programme on Syrian television, is a scriptwriter, and regularly writes for various Arabic newspapers, including »al-Hayat«.

Her first two short story collections, »Baqat kharif« (1999, tr: Autumn Bouquet) and »Mufradat imra’a« (tr: A Woman’s Words) can be seen as attempts at self-assertion. She began to question various taboos in Syrian society in her first novel, »Tiflat as-sama« (2002, tr: Heavenly Girl), which became typical of all her ensuing works. In her debut she exposes repressive social institutions, such as the family and religion, while her second novel »Salsal« (2005, tr: Clay) concentrates on the relationship between society and politics and the power of the military. In »Ra’ihat al-qurfa« (2008, tr. The Scent of Cinnamon) the author uses the doomed love affair between a lady and her maidservant to illustrate the impossibility of love in an unequal society in which people are not judged by the same standards. Her most recent work »Jabal az-zanabiq« (2008, tr. The Mountain of Lilies) defies categorisation. It consists of 77 dreams and is narrated by a woman who, inspired by »Alice in Wonderland«, moves, through a kind of free association, around the world. These texts, which combine surreal and nightmarish elements, display the author’s skill in bringing together techniques and stylistic aspects drawn from different genres – legends, folk tales, natural history, poetry, children’s literature, and film.

Samar Yazbek was awarded the first prize by the UNO for the script she wrote for a TV film dealing with the problem of early marriage for women. With »Schrei nach Freiheit. Bericht aus dem Inneren der syrischen Revolution« (2012; tr. Scream for freedom. Report from inside the Syrian revolution) the author – whose family belongs to the Alawite elite around President Assad – published her emotionally churning diary, which she kept from 25 March to 20 June 2011. At a reading in Cologne, she described the moment when she saw demonstrators being killed deliberately as a »turning point in my life«. Samar Yazbek fled Syria in the summer of 2011 and has been living since then near Paris.