Digging into the Syrian Unconscious: The “Pertinacious Nature” of Fear in Dīmah Wannūs’s Novel al-Ḫāʾifūn

in La rivista di Arablit, a. XIII, n. 26, dicembre 2023, pp. 31-54.

As the Syrian uprising turned into civil war, the hope of the first months of 2011 gradually dissolved and paved the way for the resurgence of fear, a feeling that the Assads’ clan policy of terror had been instilling in most of Syrian society for fifty years. Fear and paranoia are also at the core of Dīmah Wannūs’s novel, al-Ḫāʾifūn (The Frightened Ones, 2017). The book explores the psychological fallout of living under dictatorship in post-revolutionary Syria through the intimate romance between two patients of a Damascene therapist, a plot that intertwines with the stories of their family members, of other minor characters and some autobiographical memories of Wannūs herself. Grounding on in depth textual criticism and socio-historical analysis, this article makes an intervention both in the field of Syria’s political anthropology, by highlighting how the revolution’s crackdown has stirred supressed traumatic memories among the population, generating new forms of anxiety and distress, and in the field of Trauma Studies, questioning their Eurocentric approach, and enriching them with some insights coming from a non-European experience. In so doing, contemporary Syria, as narrated in Wannūs’ novel, appears as a laboratory to understand the psychological mechanism that in authoritarian regimes allow distress to finally emerge as the ultimate national link between both victims and perpetrators.

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This is an Article from La Rivista di Arablit - Anno XIII, numero 26, dicembre 2023

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