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The Shell: Memoirs of a Hidden Observer

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  11,175 ratings  ·  2,045 reviews
The work of a modern day Sozhenitsyn that exposes acts of violence and brutality committed by the Syrian regime. This compelling first novel is the astonishing story of a Syrian political prisoner of conscience an atheist mistaken for a radical Islamist who was locked up for 13 years without trial in one of the most notorious prisons in the Middle East. The novel takes the ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published November 15th 2016 by Interlink Books (first published January 1st 2007)
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Adnan Saadeddin هل هناك ترجمة للغة الإنجليزية لهذه الرواية؟

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Average rating 4.32  · 
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 ·  11,175 ratings  ·  2,045 reviews

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Oct 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Must be translated to English.....
There were moments I had been crying while I was reading this book...
And so I think that everyone must read this novel to know what SYRIANS have been suffering and the reasons why they are standing out against this miscreant regime.....

Betrayal, disloyality, pain, sufferance, oppression......Endless torment..

No matter how you try to waste the destination of our revolution , we will be carrying our quenchless flame ....

The flame of FREEDOM and HONOR ....
Anand Gopal
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a terrifying and heartbreaking (and, apparently, realistic) portrayal of life inside Assad's prisons. The protagonist is a Syrian christian from a communist family who gets sent to the infamous regime prison in palmyra for more than a decade, suffers unimaginable abuse, and somehow survives. It is based on the author's own experiences. If you want to understand the true nature of the Assad regime you should read this book.
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-enjoyed
This is the most powerful book I read all year. A prison narrative focusing on survival, human connection amidst a sea of suffering, and redemption, this book belongs in the annals of history alongside Elie Weizel’s “Night” and similar narratives.
Muhammed Farrag
Nov 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pure pain
Mazin Safar
Sep 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Superb book with humanistic insights that are so unusual. Very tough to handle however with the degree of brutality and injustice that humans can dare to commit.
Cornelia Baciu
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It is a cruel depiction of what a Syrian prison and prisoner feels like. So human and equally dissapointment of humanity. A glimpse into the unseen side of a regime who rules by fear. A brilliant depiction of those who support such a regime.
Yassmine Ashraf
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book made me want to throw up my heart.
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For those who wonder ... this is why millions of Syrian refugees wont return to Syria.
The novel is a masterpiece that captured the agony and misery of the forgotten detainees .
Despite the fact that the book is so depressing (for all the injustice mentioned in the book), it takes the reader deeply in the world of the book. It touches your heart.

The prisoners were unbelievably idealistic to me (compared to the characters in Sharaf by the author Sonalla Ibrahim). They were very righteous, logical, and selfless; characteristics that would disappear in such an ordeal. For the prison keepers, I still don't get how they turn into such sadistic creatures! The author did expla
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: did-not-finish
A book that is at one and the same time incredibly important and completely unreadable. I made it about halfway through before giving up. It's a Syrian prison memoir, but there's no plot, and very little reflection--just page after page of description of what hell on Earth is truly like. If you can make it through this, you're a better person than I.
May 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't believe what i have just read...
I can't believe that i finished it...
This book will keep it's touch on my heart for ever...
I wish i was able to find an english copy for my close person because i wanted to share it with her...
May 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Once you finish this book, you will look around, the world will be the same, but you will never look at it like you ever did before"
May 23, 2012 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
oooooh my go$ makes me break into tearzz... bRoke me Shoke me ... and still.. actually i'm dreamin abt the most brutal and merciless actions done by thozz jerks... i'm so srry for him and i'm in ..
May 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
cried like a baby :'(
Joud Maher
Nov 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would read it again and again!
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Writing this review in English as I hope that sharing it might make you want to pick up the translated version – audiences in the non-Arab World are unfamiliar with the dense issue that is being discussed here. I’d say not even most Arabs are aware of its extent.

It has been a very long while since I found a book compelling enough for me to read it in one sitting. "The Shell: Memoirs of a Hidden Observer" is... unbelievable, to say the least. It’s definitely one of the most, if not the most, pow
Peter King
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book doesn't read like a normal novel - more like an autobiography. It's the story of a Syrian who finds himself imprisoned by the Assad regime for being Muslim Brotherhood, although he's actually a Christian and the Syrian authorities neither know nor care why he's in prison.
Frankly, it's a tough read. I thought reading about Treblinka was tough. This was on a par. It's awful. It's basically a story of mental survival. Living, crammed closely with people who mistrust, despise and hate you
Moez Lamti
Notwithstanding the terror of real events which the story is a pale representation of, this book is quite weak. And except for some occasional lyrical escapades here and there, the best being centred around the symbolism of the titular shell itself, everything else is a lifeless description of the mundane life of a Christian captive in Syrian prisons sometime in the early eighties. There is bitter irony and a lot of insignificance in the situation, but the writer lacked the skill to turn it into ...more
Jan 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How do you review and rate someone's torture and prison story? "5 stars, great torture methods, very emotional, would recommend"? Or the opposite "horrible to read about, makes me vomit - one star"? This "inspired by real life but apparently not meant as non-fiction" account of life in a Syrian prison is hard to read about. It is gut-wrenchingly brutal and unfair, dehumanizing and horrible. Maybe a very important book right now, as a realization for all those idiots out there that think Syrians ...more
May 21, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
This is one of the books that will stick to my memory FOREVER literally everyday it crosses my mind. It was really scary I just couldn’t finish it. I just can’t get my head around the fact that this person has big dreams and with a blink of an eye everything shatters and changes, yes I know this what life is. It is really just too much to digest and I really can’t do it.

Even though I didn’t finish the book it opened my eyes to a few things:
Firstly, never trust friends because they will throw y
Devin Demirlika
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I personally thought that The Shell was a very interesting memoir that gives readers a perspective into Syrian prisons. Mustafa Khalifa leaves Paris to return to his home country of Syria. However, he is not greeted with open arms as he is immediately detained and imprisoned. This is due to the fact that someone in Paris wrote a letter to the current regime stating that Mustafa said something against them. He is transferred from prison to prison as he is tortured by guards to reveal what group h ...more
Michelle Peach
Oct 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a critical and compelling testament to the harshness and brutality of the Assad regime. Honestly, it was hard to read at times. It is an account of the sadistic physical violence and mental abuse inflicted upon an innocent prisoner on a daily basis by guards for over a decade. This novel is an important piece to understanding the horrors that the Syrian Government is capable of which is responsible for the death of thousands of innocent people.
I can't say I enjoyed reading it but I am im
Anas Khatter
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book I consider it a changer of my life, it talks about a man who was detained the moment he went back to his Homeland without a reason. I've read it at early 2011 when the Syrian revolution started and I didn't believe it. Yet, after I met with too many people who really suffered inside regime dungeons I discovered that ,despite all the horrible stories that no brain can imagine, this book talks only about the surface of what's really going on and still going on until this moment.

Note: eve
Matthew Lawrence
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was convinced this book wasn't on Goodreads because of the variation in the author's name. (If you search Mustafa Khalifa, which is how it's spelled on the American edition, you're directed only to the book's Italian translation.)

Anyway, knowing very little about Syria, I hadn't realized that the horrific events in this book actually happened to the author, and also hadn't realized that the book's setting (1972-1985) wasn't the present. It's a gripping but plainly told story of a man's twelve-
Edward Etzkorn
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: general-fiction
This book probes depths of the suffering one person can impose on another, and the strength of will required to survive it. The protagonist is a Syrian political prisoner arrested in error and the tortures to which he is subjected over the next 13 years. Written in the first-person, it makes the events feel more alive and more personal. Although it is said to be a novel, the descriptions, both of external events as well as internal psychological suffering, feel too real to be fictional.
Lojain Haddad
Oct 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most devastating books i‘ve ever read.. i don‘t recall how i stumbled on this masterpiece but i couldn‘t let go of it til i reached the last page..
i was heartbroken, disconnected and filled with tears of anger and sorrow, desperate and melancholy.. i reached a dead end of a long dark tunnel and i don‘t think i‘ll ever recover.. i wish i can throw up all of that barbarian pages.. To hell with all dictators on earth!!
Fouad Hamad
May 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I still can't fathom how I actually finished this book. honestly it broke me and made me question all aspects of life and the amount of cruelty in this world and to know that there are actually people that suffered in some unimaginable ways and some that are still experiencing these acts of madness is something that will never sit right with me.
Anyone who's interested in authoritarianism in the Middle East would benefit from reading this book. If you have read 'The Rule of Violence' by Salwa Ismail, 'Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria' by Lisa Wedeen, or Wendy Pearlman's 'We Crossed a Bridge and it Trembled: Voices from Syria' then Khalifa's novel will add another useful layer of understanding to how repression functions and what the effects are on the Syrian people.
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am a bit late on writing a review for this book, but it's due to the sheer fact that I had no idea what to say or where to begin. This book swallowed me up, heart and soul and it is one of my favorite books that I have read in 2017. Trying to find the right words to describe my feelings for it was like trying trying to describe what dark energy really means. It was tough, kinda confusing and mentally exhausting. BUT, I figured I'd give it my best and try to encourage everyone and anyone to rea ...more
Piyush Sharma
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reality
Story tells about an innocent prisoner and his days in prison. Such a horrible, painful novel that you will feel blessed for having a good life. Book allows you to think more and more and to understand the cruelty and injustice by one man to other.
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ستحرمك النوم هذه الليلة !! 3 94 Feb 21, 2017 10:43PM  
مراجعتي لرواية القوقعة 2 54 May 02, 2016 10:24PM  
القوقعة 1 45 May 30, 2014 07:23AM  
القوقعة 1 13 May 23, 2014 12:02PM  
بندر 9 180 Feb 11, 2014 03:39PM  

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“إن الإنسان لا يموت دفعةً واحدة، كلما مات له قريب أو صديق أو أحد من معارفه فإن الجزء الذي يحتله هذا الصديق أو القريب يموت في نفس هذا الإنسان، و مع الأيام و تتابع سلسلة الموت تكثر الأجزاء التي تموت داخلنا ... تكبر المساحة التي يحتلها الموت ...” 406 likes
“أنا أؤمن بقول يقول إن الإنسان لا يموت دفعة واحدة ،
كلما مات له قريب أو صديق أو واحد من معارفه
فإن الجزء الذي كان يحتله هذا الصديق أو القريب ...
يموت في نفس هذا الإنسان !..
ومع الأيام وتتابع سلسلة الموت ...
تكثر الأجزاء التي تموت داخلنا ...
تكبر المساحة التي يحتلها الموت ...
و أنا يا لينا ... أحمل مقبرة كبيرة داخلي ، تفتح هذه القبور أبوابها ليلاً ...
ينظر إليّ نزلاؤها .. يحادثونني ويعاتبونني .”
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