(SOUNDBITE OF DRUMMING)

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Nihad Sirees is a Syrian author who's been living in self-imposed exile for the last year. His most recent novel, "The Silence and the Roar," has now been translated into English. It's about a young man living in a country in chaos, much like Sirees' home country of Syria. But the book does not explicitly take place in Syria. In fact, there's no mention of known places or names. I asked Nihad Sirees why he felt the need to keep the location ambiguous.

NIHAD SIREES: I am talking in this book about tyranny. These regimes may exist in many countries in this world, so I thought that it is better to talk not in particular countries, particular dictator, but in general.

MARTIN: But, Sirees, whose work is banned in Syria, also had another reason for keeping real names and places out of the book.

SIREES: Any mentioning about our president or our regime clearly - and in names - this maybe they will ban the book. So I thought it is better like this way to give the book a chance to live.

MARTIN: The book is called "The Silence and the Roar," and it is the story of this man Fathi, 24 hours in his life, one day. Can you give an idea of who this man is?

SIREES: Fathi is a writer, but he was banned to speak freely because one time he refused to praise the dictator. So, they ask him to live in silence, not to write. But in the meantime, he has to listen to the noise of the regime because in that day, people were in street celebrating 20th anniversary of the dictator in power.

MARTIN: And you've just described that title. The silence is what he is living in as a writer whose voice has been quieted by the regime. But the roar is very interesting. You talk a lot about this. It is literally the roar of the demonstrators on the streets crying out their support, whether real or feigned, of the leader, but also metaphorically. Describe what the roar means for this intellectual, this writer living in this regime.

SIREES: The roar or the noise the regime needs always to let people to go to streets to praise the dictator and to make this noise because the noise will keep them away from thinking. So, the leader always asks his people to go to streets and to express love to him.

MARTIN: But Fathi does not take part. He refuses to demonstrate along with the masses, and he is just trying to live his life. We talk about the silence in a negative way. His voice has been silenced. But in some ways in this book, silence is also a good thing. How does Fathi find quiet? How does he find the silence that helps him deal with the roar?

SIREES: Maybe he will look to be away in his girlfriend's apartment where he feels love and quietness. Also, he felt this quietness in a jumble in the basement of security service building.

MARTIN: He's actually - we should say - he is detained. This whole novel has this kind of Kafkaesque quality to it. There is this mystery, a lot of confusion and he is detained at one point. And you say in this cell of the security services, he actually finds his own quiet. He finds welcome solitude.

SIREES: Yes, exactly. And you say that better than me.

MARTIN: You write so eloquently about how Fathi learns to block out the noise in a literal way by talking to himself, literally by talking out loud to himself. Are these things that you learned to do yourself?

SIREES: In the beginning, when I was young, I started to tell myself stories. And all the time tell stories, tell stories, and it was like practicing. But I was spoken about this book in that inner world of my character. It is a way, a literary way to continue writing, to continue talking with the reader and to explain to him the stories behind the story and so on.

MARTIN: Nihad Sirees. He is the author of "The Silence and the Roar," which has just been released in an English version from the original Arabic. He joined us from WRNI in Providence, Rhode Island. Mr. Sirees, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us.

SIREES: Thank you. Thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.