|photo: Tom Longdon
Nihad Sirees is a civil engineer, novelist, playwright and screenwriter who was born in Aleppo, Syria, in 1950. He has written TV dramas and six novels, including Cancer, The North Winds and A Case of Passion. His TV series The Silk Markereceived widespread acclaim across the Middle East and remains popular today. His novel The Silence and the Roar--which was penned in 2004 during a period of "internal exile"--is banned in Syria. It's been translated by Max Weiss, and Other Press is publishing it here on March 5, 2013. After increasing surveillance and pressure from the Syrian government, Sireees was forced to leave his home in Syria for Cairo in January 2012. In the fall of 2012 he accepted a five-month International Writers Fellowship at Brown University, and he now lives in Providence, R.I. His children and extended family remain in Aleppo.
On your nightstand now:
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga and Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco.
Favorite book when you were a child:
The Arabian Nights.
Your top five authors:
Haruki Murakami, especially Norwegian Wood, Kafka on the Shore and South of the Border, West of the Sun. Mario Vargas Llosa, the author of Death in the Andes, The Feast of the Goat and In Praise of the Stepmother, which I particularly liked. Orhan Pamuk, most of whose novels I like, such as the The Black Book, Istanbul, The White Castle and, above all, My Name Is Red, which I will not ever forget. Paul Auster for his wonderful New York Trilogy, also In the Country of Last Things. José Saramago, the author of many of my favorite novels, including The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, Blindness, All the Names and The History of the Siege of Lisbon, which I finished reading again last summer.
Book you've faked reading:
Cat and Mouse by Günter Grass. Reading his novel The Tin Drum was such an incredible experience that I decided to keep reading his trilogy but just couldn't finish it. Anyway, I'm keeping it on my shelf to go back to later and know I'll finish it someday soon.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon by Jorge Amado. Such an intriguing read. It's one of those books you wish would never end. Even after you turn the last page, you're still desperate to devour more. It's a great conversation piece. Talking about it is almost as interesting as the read. I'd love to write something similar.
Book you've bought for the cover:
None, this has never happened.
Book that changed your life:
And Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov inspired me to sit and write my first novel. At the time I had a dream of writing a novel like it.
Favorite line from a book:
"The devil can cite scripture for his purpose." --from William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon by Jorge Amado.