Sarmada, Arabic for ‘perpetuate’ or ‘the eternally-not-changed, is the name of the novel’s fictitious setting. In the title, Fadi Azzam creates a new word (a derivative female form of noun-verb, which does not exist in Arabic) and in so doing immediately lets the reader know that women are the protagonists of this story that spans several generations, from Syria to Paris and back again.
The novel is set in the Druze area and is a declaration of love for tolerance and for the peaceful coexistence of the many religious groups that live in close proximity. The Druze baptise their children and celebrate Christian holidays; however, the priests regularly collect money to build houses for Muslims and Druze alike.
Myths, communists, nationalists, murder, illicit love, superstition, erotic trees and women’s breasts make up the tapestry of this strange novel. Fadi Azzam narrates, just as he writes poetry, meaningSarmadais direct, ruthless and full of fire. The story is a concentrated collection of poetry, irony and satire all told in a language and voice that is entirely unique.
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.