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A death sentence on the Syrian state

Death is a toil
SYRIA: A multisectoral, multi-religious, multi-linguistic and multiethnic state torn to shreds by the Ba'ath party, extremists, militias and rival superpowers, all demanding their share of the country.

Khaled Khalifa's novel covers the first half of the war in syria. Externally, it tells the story of a family that is disintegrating due to the war and the regime's terror, but on a metaphorical level, the book is a death sentence on the Syrian state and nation.

The title is striking and precise: Three siblings carry the body of their dead father from Damascus and back to his hometown outside Aleppo. The approximately twenty miles in the van eventually run like true hell; the journey through the war-torn landscape is life-threatening, from the moment they leave Damascus until they finally arrive at the village where their father is to be buried next to his sister, Layla. She committed suicide many years earlier, and there is a double shame over this suicide: She was to be married off, but refused and chose death.

It was a triple protest, against the family tradition, society and religion.

It was a triple protest, against the family tradition, society. . .

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Kurt Sweeney
Literary critic.

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