"Potent ... intimate, humorous and compelling ... One of the best Syrian novelists of his generation and one of the most exciting writers to emerge from the region since the Arab Spring."—The Times Literary Supplement
Set in Aleppo in 2012, when everyday life was metronomically punctuated by bombing, Roundabout of Death offers powerful witness to the violence that obliterated the ancient city's rich layers of history, its neighborhoods and medieval and Ottoman landmarks. The novel is told from the perspective of an ordinary man, a schoolteacher of Arabic for whom even daily errands become life-threatening tasks. He experiences the wide-scale destruction wrought upon the monumental Syrian metropolis as it became the stage for a vicious struggle between warring powers. Death hovers ever closer while the teacher roams Aleppo’s streets and byways, minutely observing the perils of urban life in an uncanny twist on Baudelaire's flâneur. The novel, a literary edifice erected as an unflinching response to the erasure of a once great city, speaks eloquently of the fragmentation of human existence and the calamities of war.
"Masterful ... kaleidoscopic: personal and collective, serendipitous and fatalistic, marked by a bitter irony that can’t help flirting with despair ... What Khartash is tracking is the precariousness of memory — and identity."
—The Los Angeles Times
"Khartash’s sparse and harrowing English-language debut offers an account of life in Aleppo during the Syrian Civil War ... Readers will find this fragmented tale of war-torn Aleppo and its displaced intellectuals chilling and insightful."
"Arresting ... Readers are ushered into a landscape that feels surreal but couldn’t be more horrifically factual ... Heartbreaking in its matter-of-factness, Khartash’s work delivers a clear sense of life amid war in his book’s brief span."
—Library Journal (Starred Review)
"A heartwrenching and shocking work of historical fiction ... the novel follows Jumaa, an unemployed Arabic teacher who struggles to live peacefully in a dangerous city ... A powerful novel that takes a humane view of Syria’s devastation."
"A remarkable book, a vivid testimonial to the horrors of the Syrian civil war."
—Robert F. Worth, author of A Rage for Order: The Middle East in Turmoil
"News reports and images have exposed the horrors of the Syrian crisis: millions of refugees, bombing and chemical weapons. But this powerful novel by Faysal Khartash makes the grim reality of survival through the fierce fighting in Aleppo truly comprehensible."
—Itamar Rabinovich, co-author of Syrian Requiem: The Civil War and its Aftermath
"A masterful distillation of one of the great tragedies of the twenty-first century, as stripped of artifice and sentimentality as it is undergirded with insight and empathy. Roundabout of Death is essential reading."
—Dan Mayland, author of The Doctor of Aleppo
"A brilliant, kaleidoscopic and claustrophobic portrayal of the Syrian civil war. Khartash's spare prose eloquently conveys horrors that require no rhetorical elevation. This is a fine book that deserves a wide readership, both on its own merits and because the Syrian disaster is by no means over."
—Jonathan Spyer, author of Days of the Fall: A Reporter's Journey in the Syria and Iraq Wars
"A synthesized vision of a sensuous drive to life with a moral shock at the unseemliness of a society at war ... Narration is handled with a sense of offbeat gusto: short episodes packed with dissonant beauty, formal liberty at ease with gaps and digressions."
“Some books stand as monuments to wars from which they arise. This is one of those books.”
—Elliot Ackerman, author of Green on Blue and Waiting for Eden
"Can a novel be simultaneously starkly realistic and utterly dreamlike? I wouldn’t have thought so, but Roundabout of Death makes a convincing argument that these two qualities can coexist within a single book to powerful effect."
—Words Without Borders
"Potent ... intimate, humorous and compelling ... One of the best Syrian novelists of his generation and one of the most exciting writers to emerge from the region since the Arab Spring."
—The Times Literary Supplement
"The writing is gut-wrenching and insightful ... Roundabout of Death is a sweeping tale of war and the obliteration of a city, but it is also one that maps absence, grief and loss."
—The Markaz Review
"Khartash draws a protagonist who seeks only peace amid the bombs and explosions around him. Roundabout of Death is a book for those searching for new perspectives on an ongoing tragedy that continues to impact the lives of many people today."
"To read a novel, presumably partly autobiographical, written by a Syrian author living in Aleppo amidst the city’s destruction is a moving experience ... I feel I’ve been to Syria and got a glimpse of what it’s like to be living there as an ordinary person—and that is an incredible gift."
"The strength of Roundabout of Death lies in its credibility, and in a specificity that defies detail. The BBC has declared the war in Syria to be the most documented in history, but no one can generalize from records of documentation alone. What we are left with in this novel is the geography of Aleppo ... as much a character as Dublin is for James Joyce."
—The Arts Fuse
“Tells the incredible story of how the city of Aleppo has been reduced to piles of rubble and blood-soaked dirt in the wake of a celebrated history, its once proud identity now lost in the shadows.”
— Al-Bayan (Dubai)
“[Faysal Khartash] has always written imaginatively about the character of Aleppo, especially those relegated to the lower level and the margins, the deep trenches, revealing the city’s subterranean worlds. He intimately chronicles Aleppo’s alleyways and secret corners, which is why most of his novels have faced state censorship.”—Al-Akhbar (Beirut)