Planet of Clay (Kobo eBook)
FINALIST FOR THE 2021 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN TRANSLATED LITERATURE
Samar Yazbek’s work has previously been published in the US. She is mainly known for her non-fiction work. Her non-fiction title A Woman In the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution is a rare early chronicle of the Syrian revolution from inside, and sold around 1,500 copies through BookScan. Her work has been reviewed in the NYT, the Guardian, and the Washington Post, among others.
Yazbek is one of Syria’s most prominent journalists and writers. She has previously been profiled in the NYT https://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/24/world/middleeast/samar-yazbek-branded-betrayer-for-embracing-syria-rebels.html for her anti-government activism.
Breaking taboos in her work, much of her writing is banned in her home country. Her life threatened, she fled Syria to Paris in 2011. In 2012 Yazbek was given the PEN/Pinter International Writer of Courage award.
Planet of Clay is the story of Rima, a girl from Damascus born with a strange mania: she cannot stop walking, and therefore grows up tied to her mother’s wrist, or a piece of furniture, by a thick rope.
Rima is mostly silent, the sound of her voice is only heard on very specific occasions: when she chants the Koran, reads aloud The Little Prince, or when she screams or moans because she is hurt or afraid.
Rima’s restricted speech and movement mirror the oppression of Syrian women.
When her mother is killed in front of her by a soldier, Rima, wounded, is taken to a military hospital before her brother leads her to the besieged area of Ghouta—where, between bombings, she writes her story.
Trapped in Rima’s head, the reader gets a first-hand sensory and emotional take on the Syrian war. Yet the horrors of war don’t alter the lightness and freshness of this woman-child who, like the Little Prince, collects refuge-planets: books, writing and drawing.