Fadi Azzam was born in 1973 in Swaida, Southern Syria, but like many compatriots of his generation he was forced to leave his beloved Damascus and settle in the United Arab Emirates. He is an acclaimed free-lance journalist, whose work regularly features in Al Quds Al Arabi and his first collection of short stories Thahtaniat was published in March 2010. Adam Talib is the translator of Khairy Shalaby's The Hashish Waiter and Mekkawi Said's Cairo Swan Song, and is pursuing a doctorate in Arabic literature at Oxford.
'The struggle of the Syrian citizen to come to terms with the history and political truths of Syria and the interests and beliefs of his or her sect is at the heart of the story of how Syria will forge a national identity, and how any future government will achieve legitimacy. So while "Sarmada" may not be full of the immediate thrills of riots or protests, it's politically meaningful. The novel's gaze reaches toward an understanding of what Syria will need to grapple with in order to bring about a true Syrian Spring.' 'The novel is cleverly constructed and lavishly executed, and Sarmada's mystical, magical aspects are rendered as everyday aspects of an extraordinary place. Azzam's writing is lyrical and clear and he draws the reader with graceful charm from brutal murder to mass melancholy, to erotic delight.' 'This is a very Syrian novel, illustrating sectarian co-existence and providing glimpses of the country's mystical and literary wonders. Political history is integrated smoothly into the narrative. Azzam's criticism of dictatorship is scathingly precise. There's a devastating portrait of a Baathist faux-intellectual: a child-hating headmaster who arranges to have a boy tortured. Sarmada is, indirectly, an early novel of the contemporary Arab revolutions. Liberty, Azzam hints, must break out as surely as smothered sexuality.' 'Through all this writing down and erasing of collective memory, Azzam has an appealing tenderness for his characters, both female and male.'