This article is also available in: Italiano
“Aleppo subway” by Maha Hassan is a very special novel that will tell you both the psychological condition of the Syrian exiles, as well as a story made of “honor” and “maternal love”
Sara, a young architect from Aleppo, left her city two years ago and moved to Paris. Her aunt calls her back to Paris Amina who thirty years before her abandoned her family to emigrate to France and devote herself to a career as an actress. Aleppo meanwhile has fallen into the barbarism of war and destruction. Sara lost and bewildered in Paris, she decides to take refuge in the writing of a “war diary” to feel close to her city. Looking from the subway windows she confuses the streets and neighborhoods of Paris with those of Aleppo, as in the sequence of a drama, she sees the houses of Aleppo destroyed, the people dying, the refugees falling into the hands of ruthless traffickers of beings. humans. In the story, she moves the story of Hudhud, Sara’s mother, who will be left alone under the bombing because no one will be able to convince her to leave Syria in flames. In the end the novel will have an unexpected twist for the recorded tapes that Aunt Amina will leave to the protagonist.
One novel, 2 stories
” Aleppo Subway” is a very particular novel that manages to tell both the yearning for the suffering homeland, as well as a story made of honor and abandonment, thanks to which we will discover the story of Sara’s mother and aunt, two women more decisive than ever The mixture of these two stories is the fulcrum of the book and a fundamental element to transform it, providing it with two souls that tell the different faces of Syrian women.
The tapes will truly upset every relationship and every family dynamic, placing the reader in front of the meaning of “family” and the many ways of understanding “maternal love”, the result of the very different personalities of the three protagonists. This will be noticed even more when all three will tell, de facto, what “love” means to them, showing us 3 different stories but with some similarities as subtle as they are heavy.
The normality of war
To my taste, however, the most original and interesting part is that relating to how the war is experienced by Syrians, both in exile and not, providing terrifying and sometimes unexpected glimpses. I will never be able to forget a scene in which Sara calls a friend in Syria and the latter tells her how her son, born and raised under the conflict, is now able to fall asleep just hearing the sound of bombs and helicopters. The scars left by this infinite and infinitely violent conflict are something that we are not used to considering, that we pretend to forget so as not to feel connected to that tragedy in some way, but the scars remain, whether you look at them or not.
The visceral relationship that binds Syrians to their land, however, makes all this even more dramatic, as there are many who would be willing to give their lives just to remain glued to it and even those who leave do so with a weight in their hearts. which can rarely be even scratched. The perfect example of this is precisely that of the protagonist who, despite being in Paris, in a beautiful house and without any economic problem, is unable in any way to detach her head from her house, despite and above all for the bombs, that at any moment could make it orphaned or rootless.
Stories of women and Syria
The novel can indeed be very valuable for those who intend to interface with the psychological and human disasters caused by the war in Syria, focusing in particular on women and their relationship with “love” and “family”. These aspects are narrated in depth through the stories of the three protagonists, which will allow the reader to immerse themselves in a story full of twists and very heavy “unspoken”.
Precisely this aspect unties him a little from texts focused only on the feelings of Syrian exiles, transforming it into something new and which manages to include both sides while still finding its own balance. For my taste I would have preferred a single story to focus on, but this is precisely because of the beauty and intensity with which each of the two is written. If you’re curious to experience something new that isn’t “just” a “Syrian exile novel”, then Maha Hassan’s “Aleppo Subway” might be the book for you.
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