صلصال (Clay) by Samar Yazbek
With Clay Samar Yazbek tackles, in a poetic style, a subject previously forbidden in Syrian literature: contemporary history. She reveals the mechanisms of the current regime and traces the downfall of an entire society. There is an esoteric dimension to this tale of the extinction of a noble class, a downfall that occurs in parallel with a junior officer’s ascent to power. While sharing with the reader some of the keys to the secret doctrine of Syria’s Alaouites, the author creates a fantastic atmosphere where nameless and faceless divinities rule.
The characters must each confront their failures as individuals. Haydar Ali cannot cope with his spiritual legacy and becomes entirely the product of this defeat. Ali Hassan, the young officer and dictator, is no less lonely and defeated, since nothing allows him to enjoy his victory over his rival, even after he has stolen his only love away from him along with his ancestral power.