Summer with the Enemy

Publishing House: Hoopoe

Publication Year: 2016

Genre: Novel

Number of Pages: 248

 “Summer with the Enemy” by Shahla Ujayli is a captivating novel that takes readers on a journey through Syria’s tumultuous history. Weaving a story that blends the personal with the political. Born in 1976 in Aleppo, Ujayli is a renowned Syrian-Jordanian writer. Holding a doctorate in Modern Arabic Literature and Cultural Studies. Her novel, written in Arabic and later translated into English. It was a finalist for the prestigious International Prize for Arab Fiction, also known as the “Arab Booker Prize.”

Set against the backdrop of the Syrian war that erupted in 2011. “Summer with the Enemy” delves into the rich and profound culture, history, and literature of Syria. Offering readers a perspective beyond the typical media narratives. The novel focuses on the city of Raqqa. Tracing its transformation from a dusty provincial town in the 1920s to its occupation by Islamic State militants (ISIS) and the 2017 siege. Ujayli’s storytelling brings to life three generations of a family in Raqqa, combining elements of historical fiction, romance. And a coming-of-age story, including a tale of first love. The novel challenges Western stereotypes about Arab Muslim women, portraying them as active, diverse, and complex individuals.

Furthermore, Raqqa, almost a character in its own right, is vividly depicted in Ujayli’s narrative, showcasing a tightly knit, multi-ethnic community full of local conflicts and family drama. The grandmother’s stories captivate the younger generations, weaving tales of scandal, love, and travel, often leaving them in suspense. The protagonist, Lamees, dreams of an equestrian future. Navigating her strained relationship with her mother and the complex emotions.  Surrounding her mother’s love affair with a visiting German professor, Nicolas. The narrative follows Lamees and her mother’s journey from Raqqa to Germany, seeking a new life after the fall of their city.

Additionally, the process of translating “Summer with the Enemy” into English was a meticulous and empathetic endeavor, ensuring the novel’s authenticity and richness preserved. The translator in a Lebanese mountain village in 2019, was acutely aware of the echoes of conflict from nearby Syria. Adding a poignant layer to the translation process. The novel offers readers a glimpse into the intricate lives and histories of its characters, set against the backdrop of Syria’s complex socio-political landscape.

“Summer with the Enemy” is a novel that artfully combines humor, drama, romance, and a century of history, placing women at the forefront of its narrative. It presents an intimate portrait of life in Raqqa. Through the eyes of three women – Lamis, her mother Najwa, and her grandmother Karma. Their stories, shifting between different times and places. Highlight the intimate details of their lives and relationships within the broader historical and political context. The novel emphasizes Syria’s interconnectedness with the world, tracing the lives of its characters in Raqqa. For example, in places like Turkey, Jerusalem, Aleppo, and Damascus. Reminding us of the rich tapestry of Syrian life and history.

Read More About Shahla Ujayli

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