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Book Review: 'Tiger and Clay' Rana Abdulfattah digs deeper in Syria's fragments

Culture | 2017-05-04 00:05:36
Book Review: 'Tiger and Clay' Rana Abdulfattah digs deeper in Syria's fragments
(Zaman Al Wasl)- “In the clay there is a tiger and the problem is neither in the question nor is in the text. It is in the interpretation. You can listen or read the answer in folk literature or Sufi music. To belong is to have grammar and in grammar there are exceptions.

You can never belong fully except to the gravity of the universe. We belong anyways,” writes Rana Abdulfattah in her newly published book Tiger and Clay: Syrian Fragments.

In this book of poetry and prose, Abdulfattah offers her readers insight into her experience of exile and living in Istanbul while the fighting unfolds in Syria. But the book does not stop at the issue of exile or migration as Abdulfattah’s engaging style takes her reader through an exploration of relationships, faith, and seeking home.

Istanbul takes center stage in the book almost as an actor, perhaps as an old and mischievous magician. By engaging with Istanbul as an idea as much as a space, Abdulfattah shows not just how a walk through an alleyway or street may touch the soul, but the ways the city’s past appears and disappears before an onlooker.

And for someone familiar with the city, Abdulfattah’s engagement will come as a refreshing approach as she shows how Syria is brought in Istanbul as much as perhaps one day Istanbul will be brought into Syria.

Where is home and how do I (re)create it? A question many Syrians have been forced to ask and find ways to answer since 2011. Some declare their answer by risking their lives by crossing the sea or walking across borders on route to Europe while others keep their eyes on Syria waiting for the right time to return.

Abdulfattah presents her experiences of losing home with humor, sadness, and- at times- anger. She explores her struggles as a human being first and as a Syrian to recreate a sense of home. Home emerges not just a physical place that hosts memories and history, but a way of being.

In Tiger and Clay, Abdulfattah conveys the ways the personal is political and vice versa. She writes of her engagement with NGOs, legality, and the discourse of refugees and migration that is a central issue in Europe and elsewhere since the summer of 2015. She prompts her readers to awaken to a reality, as there are many, of being a refugee beyond the narrative of violence or persecution that are the category’s legal premise.
Abdulfattah, who was born in a southern suburb of Damascus, moved to Istanbul to complete her master’s degree in linguistics prior to the start of the ٍSyrian revolution in March 2011.

Tiger and Clay: Syria Fragments, published by Palewell Press, is Abdulfattah’s first book published in the UK. It was published in March 2017, and features Syrian artist Mohammad Sida’s painting ‘Migrant’ on the cover.  

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