“The Martyrs Omar Kaddour”… Between extreme realism and fantasy

What distinguishes the language of narration from the Syrian poet and novelist Omar Kaddour (born in 1966) is slowness and condensation, two features that appeared with his first novel, “Rough Edges” (2002). These two features force the reader to read his fictional text slowly and attentively.

Personal reason to write
His new novel, “The Martyrs Omar Kaddour,” recently published by the Mediterranean House in Milan, is among the novels issued after 2011, adding another voice to the voices that presented many works on the ongoing “Syrian murderer”. This is a personal reason for writing for many Syrian writers who survived the murder, and they wanted to present a scene of the murder from a personal point of view and narrative.
What is interesting is the presence of the writer Omar Kaddour’s name in the title of the novel, and not only as its writer. The matter revolves around the presence of two martyrs bearing the author’s name who were martyred in “Zamalka” and “Atma”, both Syrians, at the hands of the Syrian regime forces.
This is an additional personal reason to write; For the novelist Omar Kaddour to find, perhaps by sheer coincidence, a YouTube video of the funeral of a person bearing his name who died at the hands of a sniper on November 28, 2012, and to find a funeral bearing his name. After that, another Umar Qadour will be killed in another location, and the novelist will watch the funeral of the other there.

In the first section, the conversation will be on the lips of the martyr Omar Kaddour, who was hit by a sniper in Zamalka, and his body will remain for two days on the ground, before the people exhume and mourn him. Omar Kaddour is an unknown character, and we only know his name. The novelist will create a biography of him from his imagination. That is, the writer will give him the role of narrator to talk about himself, his past and his family. And all of this is pure fiction, as nothing the writer knows about that person except for a YouTube video of his name’s funeral. But this person, of imagined biography, will give a long monologue from the moment his body is recovered, and carried, to the moment of his burial. It’s a few minutes anyway, but Kadour presents it with that slowness that distinguished his writing, and through it he presents very realistic, or documentary, events and personalities known on the Syrian scene. Rather, the corpse will tell us about massacres that will take place after its death. “I see a large group of tanks, armored vehicles, and shabiha storming Zamalek tomorrow. I see women and children hiding from the bullets that are being fired heavily, and everything that moves in the street. Through the window of a dead baby at my son’s age.” It will have a future vision of what will happen in and around Zamalek. This feature will also accompany his other name in “Atma”. It is as if the dead opened their eyes more, and quickly conveyed to us events that have taken place and will take place, before they fall on the dust and finish watching and narrating.

Narrative strokes

The first section is not dedicated to the martyr of Zamalek only, but also includes a biography of Fida and her lover, and then her husband. Segment of the martyr. Then a clip on the tongue of a redemption husband. A clip about a funeral that goes to burial, and a clip about another life that is not related to the life of the martyr begins to set off. This is what happens in the other sections, where there is a clip of the martyr Atma Omar Kaddour, and a clip for Avin and her lover, and then for another Avin and her husband. and a final section for the writer in which he revisits all the other threads, to offer final narrative strokes to the reader.
Many real names appear in this novel, such as Mishaal Tammo, Razan Zaitouneh, Nazem Hammadi, Wael Hamada, Faeq al-Mir, Muhammad Saad, Samira al-Khalil, and Ali al-Shihabi…, as well as many incidents of bombing, massacres, torture, detention, displacement, migration and shabeeh, to the extent that The characters speak the language of those days, and go on to include those descriptions that the novels may dispense with, such as “Bashar bombed our house, and killed my father and mother. Bashar bombed my school, and I was absent that day, so he killed all my friends”, or “the tyrant is the son of the tyrant”, or “Cursed.” Soul”, which makes it very realistic, but it is carried on the imagination that Omar Kaddour created in his movements between them; The fictional records, the real continues to escape from or to the imagination, a technique credited to the author of Asmaa For Oblivion.

Multiple lives
The violence that overflows in this novel, no matter how much the writer tries to tell different stories, makes even the surviving characters live their death, which they miraculously escaped from. Fida, who gives birth to a girl before she is arrested and raped by all the officers and members of the branch, will escape death, and will flee with her husband and daughter “Sama” to Lebanon, and then to Paris. During her survival, she will not survive the violence she was subjected to, to the extent that she leaves her home and her daughter to live with another personality, a lesbian, even though she is not fit for that character, and that continuous old violence will lead her to commit suicide.

The Kurdish “Avin” will leave her husband in the Netherlands, and join the Kurdish forces, in order to survive the drowning of her three children at sea. She will leave her Arab husband there in the Netherlands to blow herself up against a Turkish patrol. She chose this method in order not to have a trace and a grave, as her three children who were swallowed by the sea, and like her brother who preceded her in joining the Kurdish forces, and returned as an obituary paper, without a body, and without a grave.
These endings also feel that the reader is calculated accurately by the writer, as he takes things to their causes and consequences with ease and lightness, despite the great pain, both physical and psychological. It seems that the author of the novel “Who does not know Simon?” He knows how to hide and show the threads, and when to do so, so that they gather at their ends in the form of strokes of those many lives.
The men who also survived the violence, torture and bombardment experienced nightmares of that torture and oppression when they were out of place. They were not seeing nightmares inside the place, simply because they were experiencing them. And when that torture ended, and when they got out of the place, they began to witness long and multiple nightmares of torture, destruction, and bombing, as if they were preventing them from continuing to live outside the place, “since it is not enough for you to leave the place, he must also leave you.”

heavy lukewarm air
Somehow all the dead men will become Omar Kaddour, who wants to alert people to what will happen to them, but no one can hear them. And all the living men, in this novel at least, turn into Omar Kadour, who does not know how to continue his life after being saved. He would seem to lose sight of what it means to continue living after being abandoned by his women and children. While the children who survived, like Deva and Sama, will grow up quickly, standing next to the broken father.
The author of the novel “A Heavy Lukewarm Air” uses multiple methods to complete his novel, which takes place in more than 160 pages, from monologue and dialogue, as well as the message, and narrative and cinematic fragmentation, presenting many tales, not only the story of the martyrs of Zamalka and Atma. The novel, despite bearing the name of the two martyrs, is not devoted to their biography, or to their worlds only, but continues to tell stories that take place over a wide area; In Syria, Lebanon, France, Holland and Turkey, while carrying two bodies to a cemetery.
The novel “The Martyrs Omar Kaddour” does not appear to be documentary in a direct language, or an emotional one that embodies a single point of view. Rather, it contains multiple linguistic layers to explain the worlds and interiors of different male and female characters, and there are poetic sentences that moisten the bonds of these tales, and that violent fate, in order to continue their astonishment. A novel that does not go only to joining that category of works that pertain to the Syrian female murderer, but remains alongside Omar Kadour’s previous works, because it is a continuation of what she ended up with.