Ascension to Death

Mamdouh Azzam / Translated by Max Weiss

‘Azzam delicately convinces the reader that Salma “is a sad bird in a wicked hunter’s cage,” painting an unremittingly bleak picture of her existence in a harrowing reminder that the world can be full of misery, especially when neither your life nor your fate is yours to decide.’ 
Arab News 

‘Dark, challenging and inventive, Ascension to Death is one of Syria’s most beloved novels of the 20th century.’
Asian Review of Books

‘Mamdouh Azzam’s Ascension to Death is a powerfully raw, emotionally charged narrative of a young woman’s efforts to escape her life of oppression and torment in favor of freedom and love.’
World Literature Today


In the conservative Druze region of southern Syria, Salma has been abandoned by her mother and forced into a brutal arranged marriage by her uncle. When she disgraces her family by falling in love with a boy from her village and escaping him, Salma’s relatives set out to ensure that her ordeal of imprisonment, torture, and betrayal is only beginning.

Dark, challenging, and inventive, Ascension to Death is one of Syria’s most acclaimed novels. Originally published in Arabic in 1987, and adapted into an acclaimed film in 1995, it is the first work of Mamdouh Azzam to be published.

MAMDOUH AZZAM is a Syrian novelist. His most celebrated and controversial novel is The Palace of Rain, a powerful and daring treatment of taboos in Syria’s conservative Druze religion and community. Ascension to Death was first published in Arabic as Mi’raj al-mawt, and was adapted into the award-winning film Al-Lajat, directed by Riyad Shayya.

MAX WEISS is an American scholar and translator, specialising in the culture and history of the Middle East.

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