IWP Fellow, Nihad Sirees, Receives PEN Award

November 29, 2012

Syrian novelist Nihad Sirees, Brown University’s 2012-13 International Writers Project Fellow, has been named as the recipient of an English PEN Award for outstanding writing in translation for his novel, The Silence and the Roar.

The novel,  translated by Max Weiss of Princeton University,  centers on a day in the life of Fathi Schin, a well-known author who has been banned by the authorities from writing and publishing.  The day in question is the twentieth anniversary of the rise to power of the  “Great Leader” who banned Schin’s work – celebrations rage in the street as Schin seeks sanctuary at home with his loved ones.

The Silence and the Roar will be published by the Pushkin Press, London, in January 2013.  An American edition, by Other Press, will be available in March 2013.

Sirees, a native of Aleppo, Syria,  has been described as “the Kafka of the Middle East.”   He is the distinguished author of seven novels, a play, and numerous screenplays.   His work has been banned from publication in Syria since the 1998 screening of his television drama, The Silk Market, which described social turmoil in Syria in 1956 – 61 and the subsequent rise to power of the Baath Party.  He left Syria in January, 2012, because of personal and political harassment, and lived in self-imposed exile in Cairo, Egypt, before coming to Brown in October, 2012, to accept its International Writers Project Fellowship.   

The Fellowship annually provides a stipend and working space to a writer who has been subjected to political harassment, imprisonment, suppression of his or her work, or death threats in their homeland.  Previous IWP recipients have come to Providence from Iran, Burma, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Cambodia, and the Congo.

English PEN, a registered charity, promotes freedom to write and freedom to read in the U.K. and around the world. According to Emma Cleave, an English PEN spokesperson, the award recognizes translated works of fiction, non-fiction or poetry “which contribute to inter-cultural understanding and promote freedom of expression.”  As part of the award, Pushkin Press will receive PEN funding to help them promote and champion important literature in English translation.

The International Writers Project Fellowship is supported by the Department of Literary Arts at Brown.  Literary Arts, which grants the MFA degree in fiction, poetry, and electronic writing, also sponsors numerous readings, performances and festivals involving writers and artists of national and international importance.  For further information on Literary Arts and the International Writers Project, or to learn more about our upcoming events, please see our website, www.brown.edu/cw.