Book review: Culture on War Front, Damascus

Dina Kabil, Monday 15 Apr 2013

The new monthly periodical, Damascus, opens space for writers from the Arab world, especially Syria


The new monthly periodical, Damascus, opens a space for writers from the Arab world, especially Syria

Demashq, (Damascus) monthly magazine issue no.1, London:Damascus Institute for Studies and publication in London, March 2013.400pp

Launched in London and printed in Cairo, Demashq (Damascus) is a new area of ​​resistance against despotism and traditionalism in the form of a magazine that runs the slogan: "The land of the free and the horizon of fiction."

Poet Abdel-Moneim Ramadan voiced concerns that the magazine was too "luxurious," and may not make it to a second issue.

"The only luxury of this review is that it is the feathers of writers participating in the baptism of Damascus," rebuts editor and Syrian poet, Nouri Al-Jarrah at the launching ceremony in Cairo in March.
Activists and writers from Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Yemen and especially Syria, fill the 400 pages of Demashq, published by the Damascus Institute for Studies and Publishing in London and printed in Cairo "with a modest outlook" according to Al-Jarrah.

The first part of the review, which plays the role of an ideological or theoretical reference entitled "The Syrian revolution, sources of anger. Challenges of hope and culture of freedom" is marked by names like Syrian Galal Sadek Al-Azm, Aziz Tebssi Mufid Negm, Rafiq Al-Shami and Sobhi Al-Hadidi.

For example, Rafiq Al-Shami in his paper Intellectuals and Mercenaries tackles the tribal system that hates individualism and does not allow the individual to create. He highlights how the tribe occupies a place in the Syrian revolution much more than that in Tunisia or Egypt, but bets on the ability of ordinary people to free themselves from their abusers.

Whatever theme the articles take (democracy and secularism, Islam and modernity, or criticising the rupture between revolutionary intellectuals and supporters of the incumbent Baathist regime), Demashq's mandate is to outline a cultural portrait of the revolution.
Nouri Al-Jarrah tries to show through the magazine's diversity of poetry, novels, cartoons, music, cartoon, art and more, the entities and emerging cultural projects from the heart of turbulent events during the two years of Arab and, in particular, the Syrian revlution, including from the gathering of Art and Freedom, the Syrian writers' union, journalist union, Dawleti and others.

The second part of the review is devoted to literature, stories, journals and literary articles, including a record of a selection of new Kurdish translated into Arabic.

In the editorial, Nouri Al-Jarrah tries to acclaim the role of intellectuals, highlighting the number of intellectuals who have lost their lives on the "battlefront" in demanding freedom, such as the singer Ibrahim Qashoush, whose corpse was found the in the Assi River in 2011 with his throat slit for daring to sing "Leave, Bashar!"

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