Syria | 2015
Nihad Sirees was born in Aleppo, Syria in 1950. After training and working as an engineer, he became an acclaimed novelist, play writer and screenwriter. His first novels were published in the 1980s and he gained a reputation as a realist in his writings which reflect the environment in Aleppo and the lives of the middle class, as well as political, historical and social issues.
His novel The North Winds (1989) was described by critics as one of the most important historical novels in Syria; The Silence and the Roar (2004), which won the English PEN award in 2013, was banned in Syria, and has been translated in German, French and English and is being translated into a number of other languages. He is also recognised for his original approach on television dramas with the highly praised series “The Silk Market”, set in political turmoil on the 1950s and 60s, which showed the environment, culture and dialect of Aleppo for the first time in Syrian television.
After finding himself under increasing pressure from the Syrian government, in 2012 he left for Egypt and now lives and works in exile in Berlin, Germany.
It is a wonderful experience to be invited to Santa Maddalena. I was excited when I received the invitation, but when the time approached to fly to Italy the revolution in Syria had turned into a civil war and I was consumed with worry about my family and home city Aleppo. I had been forced to leave Syria at the beginning of the troubles but had thought it would be short-term. I told Beatrice I wanted to postpone the invitation because I didn’t want to be there while I was in that state of anxiety, unable to concentrate and write. She agreed, and I hoped things would change in Syria and get better, but the war got worse and worse as every year passed. I postponed once more, but felt able to come this year because I had become more used to bad news from home.
The peaceful atmosphere and beauty of Santa Maddalena was what I needed. It was possible to escape daily worries and focus on writing. Beatrice and the other writers shared my concern about what was happening with my family in Syria, but around the dining table I could relax and become involved in discussions about literature and exchange ideas and experiences with fellow writers. This environment was very helpful. I was able to write creatively for the first time in ages, a one act play about refugees.