[This is the eighth part of Amal Hanano`s diary of her trip back to Aleppo. You can read previous posts here]
By coincidence, I was reading Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections while in Aleppo, although it may not have been pure coincidence, as sometimes books seem to possess magically perfect timing. (Last year’s Freedom may have been the more appropriate title for my trip, but I have a habit of reading books out of sequence.) Every afternoon, while the city paused under the oppressive July heat, I read pages (and pages), escaping my dysfunctional Syrian society, and entering the familiar but distant, dysfunction of suburban America. Both worlds could not have been more alien to each other. But as I came to this passage, I was reminded how fiction always finds a way to interject into reality:
“Other people stopped being real enough to carry blame for how you felt. And like self-pity, or like the blood that filled your mouth when a tooth was pulled –the salty ferric juices that you swallowed and allowed yourself to savor– refusal had a flavor for which a taste could be acquired.”
I read it over and over, trapped within the lines. I connected with every word, the blame, the pain, the pity, I was steeped in it, and I could taste it clearly in my daily interactions in Aleppo. We, as Syrians, over the past decades, have slowly acquired the deadening refusal of reality. We learned to refuse it with such force that some could no longer recognize reality even when it was right in front of them.
This article is now featured in Jadaliyya`s edited volume entitled Dawn of the Arab Uprisings: End of An Old Order? (Pluto Press, 2012). The volume documents the first six months of the Arab uprisings, explaining the backgrounds and trajectories of these popular movements. It also archives the range of responses that emanated from activists, scholars, and analysts as they sought to make sense of the rapidly unfolding events. Click here to access the full article by ordering your copy of Dawn of the Arab Uprisings from Amazon, or use the link below to purchase from the publisher.