Syria's Secret Library

Syria's Secret Library

The secret library is in the basement of a bombed building in a heavily shelled area of Darayya. Around it, shattered buildings that were once homes and offices lie in crumbling, treacherous piles. A desert of shattered grey concrete festooned with twisted metal and charred wires. Deep beneath this scene of frightening devastation lies the secret library. No signs mark its presence. Locals fear that Syrian government planes will bomb it if they know where it is.

While the streets above echo with rifle fire and thunderous shelling the secret world below is a haven of peace and tranquillity. More than 14,000 books are stacked neatly on home-made shelves according to author and subject, and are checked in and out meticulously. Those within read quietly, drinking tea on comfortable sofas and chairs. A small oasis of normality in a country at war with itself.

The secret library was the brainchild of a group of former university students whose education was interrupted when war broke out and then was ended altogether by the siege that followed. Teams of young enthusiasts regularly dodge snipers’ bullets and barrel bombs to bring the books to the library. Timber for the bookshelves is collected in a similar way.

Darayya’s secret library is an extraordinary place, but this book is about more than that. It is also the stories of the many people who treasure it and the central role it has in their lives.

(p) Orion Publishing Group 2018
Read More

Genre: Humanities / History / Regional & National History / Asian History / Middle Eastern History

On Sale: 11th July 2019

Price: £19.99

ISBN-13: 9781409171461

Reviews

Mike Thomson's relationship with the people of Daraya as they were being systematically smashed to pieces has produced one of the most extraordinary stories to come out of the Syrian conflict. The assembly of a library under almost daily threat of death and destruction is appalling and at the same time, hugely inspiring. A unique tribute to the power of books and the unquenchable human spirit
MICHAEL PALIN
An inspiring read - humanity at its best overcoming adversity at the height of war with the power of love for their secret library
DAVID NOTT
In a country devastated by war, this incredible story shows how one library has thrived
WOMAN & HOME
A Syrian tale of cultural resistance ... provides moving testimony to Syrian students' passion for books ... a small band of enthusiasts convinced of the redemptive power of reading ... determined both to keep their minds sharp and do something for their community ... dodged sniper fire daily to salvage whatever volumes they could find from the wreckage of homes and public buildings
TLS