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The Silence and the Roar

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  646 ratings  ·  117 reviews
Available in English for the first time, The Silence and the Roar is a funny, sexy, dystopian novel about the struggle of an individual over tyranny.

The Silence and the Roar follows a day in the life of Fathi Sheen, an author banned from publishing because he refuses to write propaganda for the ruling government. The entire populace has mobilized to celebrate the
Paperback, 160 pages
Published March 5th 2013 by Other Press (first published 2004)
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Average rating 3.69  · 
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A sobering allegory about the place of the individual artist in a repressive regime, drawing on the literary traditions of surrealism and absurdism. The entire novel takes place within 24 hours — one stiflingly hot Sunday. Our irascible narrator is Fathi Sheen, a writer who was fired when he refused to shoehorn party publicity into his television programming. Cooped up in his apartment, he complains of the heat, the light, and especially the noise. There is a pro-government march happening ...more
Nov 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, translation
published in its original arabic some seven years before the syrian civil war began in 2011, the silence and the roar (al samt wal sakhab) is the first work of the exiled aleppo-born novelist and screenwriter to appear in english. nihad sirees left syria in january of 2012 after being "watched and followed by syrian security services." acclaimed for his novels (particularly the north winds), as well as for his television series, the silk market, sirees had previously incurred the wrath of ...more
Mar 31, 2013 rated it liked it
This largely plotless, parable-esque little novel is worth reading -- it's an effective evocation of a world that sounds like a dystopian satire until you set it alongside dispatches from Syria, when it suddenly starts to seem more brightly optimistic than reality. But while the narrator's voice is compelling and the sense of stifling heat, noise and bureaucracy shines through, it's unsatisfying as a novel, full of stagnant, sketched-out characters and unresolved plot points.
Beth Asma
Sep 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Liked the story. Through narrative, the writer disguises characters' fear of retribution for individual thinking and for not joining mass rallies out in support for the unnamed Leader. Another disguise of fear is the main character Fathi's laughter and love, along with his mother Ratiba's and his lover Lama's. The grandiosity of the political regime in the omnipresence of the Leader's portraits, of his speeches, and of the military march music on buildings and television seems exaggerated; and ...more
Parrish Lantern
In the afterword of this book, Nihad Sirees, asks “Is it possible for the silence and the roar to co-exist?” Going on to state that The answer is most certainly yes, that in countries ruled by people obsessed with supremacy, authoritarians and those who are crazed by power, the ruler or leader imposes silence upon all those who dare to think outside the prevailing norm. Silence can be the muffling of one’s voice or the banning of one’s publication, or it can be the silence of a prison cell… or ...more
Sep 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
This well written novel by Syrian author Nihad Sirees conveys what life is like in a country ruled an oppressive totalitarian regime. His storytelling is compelling, as the reader follows a day in the life of a writer, (who clearly has a lot in common with the author), who has been banned by the government for his critical writing. Sirees has written a number of plays and tv series and this is evident in his writing. In fact this novel would make a good movie. I wish more people in the West ...more
As with many of the reviews which I am writing of late, I chose to include Nihad Sirees' The Silence and the Roar on my Around the World in 80 Books challenge list. The novel, which is written by an exiled Syrian author, is set in an unnamed dictatorship, which resembles that of Syria. The lovely (as ever) Pushkin Press edition which I purchased has been translated from its original Arabic by Max Weiss.

The Independent on Sunday declares The Silence and the Roar 'Profound and topical... a
Jul 27, 2017 rated it liked it
I would have given this book a 4 or 5 star rating, as the story was enthralling, inportant, and moving and the characters were so real and captivating, however there was too much sexuality for my personal liking, hence 3 stars. I get that the sexuality was an important componant and and that the whole point was that Fathi was fighting the roar of a dictatorship with love, but I still really didn't enjoy reading the sexual parts.
Aug 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: ٱلعربية, war
Cliché story about an intellectual writer who tries to keep a clean consciousness by avoiding helping the dictatorship that plagues his country. Despite his efforts he gets sucked into the bureaucracy of the state apparatus. Think Orwell + Kafka but without the brilliance or originality.
Dec 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
A writer in an autocratic regime (Syria before the war) ponders over the Catch-22 situation he finds himself in... His sharp observations echo in the current day politics of India and the US too...
Sep 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: middle-east
The English translation of „The silence and the roar“ was published at the beginning of the Syrian civil war - I think the Arabic original was published some years earlier - and therefore it you will find no hints to its events. Nevertheless, the day in the life of the protagonist - Fathi Sheen - shows one of its causes: the irrational cult of a psychopathic leader. For the Western reader this leader cult seems exaggerated, insane and impossible to be true. I thought of it as a highly satirical ...more
Jan 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Syrian "1984." Think of Egypt's Albert Cossery so frustrated by his government's corruption and the peoples' complicity in it that the humor he usual deploys to deflate it is almost gone, because his good-natured nihilism has been replaced by a desperate desire for change. Sirees's depiction of crowd scenes--the noise (always the noise), chaos, and violence--and a hospital's hallways after the day's marches (in *favor* of "the Leader")--filled with the stench of rapidly-decomposing corpses and ...more
Debbie Kinsey
This novella takes place over one 24-hour period of the life of Fathi, a writer in Syria who is considered a traitor for his views on the regime and so is no longer allowed to write. It’s about how a dictator must be adored, and how the hysterical crowds and the dictatorship feed into each other. It’s about what it’s like, and how, to be standing on the outside of that, and if it’s possible to stay on the outside. You can really feel the oppressive heat, mirroring the inescapable oppression of ...more
Ted Graham
Mar 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Quite simply, this book was brilliant. I picked it up on Wednesday and finished it this morning (it's Friday). It's riveting and insightful and the prose is often breathtaking. Reminiscent of Naguib Mahfouz's Cairo Trilogy, the story of Fathi Sheen is a peek inside the horror that is modern Syria. The main character struggles with the roar of the regime and longs for the simple silence of being happy. The story covers barely more than a day, but the simple hurdles that the characters must get ...more
John Pappas
Nov 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
The story of a few days in the life of a writer struggling to exist in an unnamed despotic regime. The simple limpidity of the prose belies the staggering compassionate and courageous acts of the protagonist as he attempts to live, live and work in a country that seems to do nothing but celebrate the reign and accomplishments of the Leader. A political allegory not only applicable to the author's homeland of Syria, this study of the individual's fight to remain separate from the deafening and ...more
Aug 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book, finished it in a day! I felt a connection to the main character as a person I would get along with and would be friends with. Its a day in the life of Fathi a man who refuses to follow the "roar" of an oppressive and terrible dictator. He is determined to hold his ground and his beliefs as he struggles to maintain the silence during the day. The author is a Syrian writer who escaped and oppressive government. Even though a country or leader isn't named, he makes the story very ...more
Dec 17, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting novella, especially in light of what's happening in Syria. Loved the author's characterisation of the "roar" though I feel he could have done more with the "silence" angle. Still, a lovely book.
Barnaby Thieme
Jul 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Nihad Sirees (or Siris) wrote this fable about life in an authoritarian state in an unnamed Middle Eastern dictatorship while living in Cairo, himself in exile from the security forces of Bashar al-Assad.

The protagonist Fathi Sheen, a blacklisted author largely based on Sirees himself, spends the day trying to go about his business, despite the omnipresent commotion of a massive, orchestrated march in honor of the Leader, which fills the streets with chaos. Throughout the book, the din of the
Jim Fonseca
A 1984-ish political allegory by a Syrian author. We’re in a dystopian society in the Middle East where The Leader, always capitalized, has created a society that not only worships him but exists to worship him. His picture and quotations from his speeches and poetry are everywhere. Government offices are literally wall-papered with his photos. “Any hint of individuality is a threat directed at the Leader’s supremacy.”


Periodic parades with required participation by all males are constant.
Martin Boyle
Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
One of those inspired gifts, this is a charming, disturbing, intimate, emotional, beguiling read.

I know, I know, Kafkaesque is an overused epithet! Few can really match that level of nightmarish vision and still make it realistic. In this case, Sirees shows that he can adapt the style to a middle-eastern (Syrian?) setting to good effect, bringing in a touch of 1984-style propaganda. Or is he writing something rather more current affairs than dystopian vision...?

Yes, this novel is not plagiarism.
May 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
With such a raw style, full of self-aware explanation, I found it difficult to appreciate the writer’s intent until I read the afterword. A more subtle approach, however, would likely go unnoticed in such a harsh regime of forced emotionialism as this story requires in its setting.

Where emotion has been so falsely used shock tactics become the breaking of chains. That emotion should require meeting the harsh with an equal but differing harshness is not an easy challenge to accept, let alone
May 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Maybe it was too subtle or maybe my western brain cannot fully appreciate the tragic absurdity of the dictatorship around which this story is based. There's definitely a Kafka-like bleakness to it, but the protagonist maintains his intellectual individuality which, in the end, is the great threat to autocracy.
Marion Friedman
At turns darkly humorous, this quick read explores the experience of despotism through a lens both Orwellian and Kafkaesque. Sadly it contains too much truth, and the "Leader's" insatiable appetite for adulation seems a chillingly accurate depiction of our current top office holder, though this novella was actually written in the mid 2000s by a Syrian expatriate.
Carla Castanos
Nov 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
A beautiful, funny and sexy satire of life under a dictatorship, where individual thought and freedom is made silent through the roar of the masses. A very relevant story post-Arab Spring, even if it was written years before the events. If you love Kafka, you’ll like it.
Kim Sampson
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was entertaining, but I wanted more. What happened after? Without getting overly opinionated/ political, I dare anyone in US to read this and not picture our president at one of his rallies.
Dec 27, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was disappointing.

I learned quite a bit about being rubbed down with a cold towel because of the intense, overbearing heat. In all other respects, it left me cold.
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
Really wanted to enjoy this book but the one-dimensionality of the girlfriend character really grinded on my nerves the entire time .... reminding me of Robert Heinlein at his worst.
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
An interesting read, due to current political situations here and around the world.
James (JD) Dittes
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Middle East/North...: The Silence and the Roar 5 27 Mar 23, 2017 06:11PM  

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