Reading as SurvivalReading forces you to be quiet in a world that no longer makes a place for that
– John Green
The very first impression I had of The Book Collectors of Daraya by Delphine Minoui was the cover page. It was so attractive and had the most beautiful texture and feel to it. Also the size of the book it was so wonderful to hold. I think it’s the first time I didn’t want to open a book I was so content with the cover. So they say don’t judge a book by its cover but The Book Collectors was a most promising read.
[Highlighted Excerpts taken for reference from The Book Collectors of Daraya-Delphine Minoui.]
This passage where Omar explains jihad and that the Al-Nusra front, the Al-Qaeda or Daesh only warp their ideas but not represent them. Also that the revolt really was a call for justice and respect for human rights and not for Islam. We often generalize religion and label it in many ways and revolts mostly are not really religious but freedom from injustice. The revolts are a consequence of never ending violence.
His opinion that the war could go on for years and that he found books helped him not to lose himself was endearing.
The comparison to the strikes to the Ray Bradbury 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451 and this particular quote. “A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well read man?” The strikes in Daraya were the same they were random, terrifying and lethal.
This was my favorite part of the book a self published magazine Karkabeh created where the chaos is perfectly organized by theme. Where the stories were raw and kept neutral. I liked how a particular page offered weekly horoscopes but were replaced by familiar symbols like rocket kitchen, rock climber, fuel oil etc. Also the pseudo astrological advice adapted to the chaos of Daraya one such was- If your friends invite you over for tea, better eat before you go. Otherwise you’ll starve to death. Also the warning from editors makes you smile. This horoscope is entirely a product of your imagination. Any resemblance to reality is pure coincidence.
The walls in Daraya that came to life with murals was very interesting with one where the wall was deformed by a blast with a four year old girl in a blue and yellow dress. Standing on a hill made of skulls, she’s writing the English word hope in capital letters with her chubby hand. It was a lesson in optimism and how graffiti art plays a role and is a form of activism and declared that they were still standing.
In the heart of the passage I found beautiful stories researched carefully by the author about the secret library of Daraya and what it came to mean for its people and how books became a survival guide for them, where all around them was only death and destruction.
The Book Collectors of Daraya by Delphine Minoui remind me how special books can be and the depth of their importance varies with the people who read them. This was yet another book that spoke about reading like The Book Thief and how valuable a book can be.
What does reading mean to you?