"INHALE EXHALE": A BREATHTAKING NOVEL

Bouran Arbash a Syrian young author takes us in her novel "Inhale Exhale" throughout a journey in the mystical existence of the human soul from both paths of the respiratory mechanism inhaling and exhaling, which is verbalized by the chapters titles: all chapters are inhalations of(Desertion, Silence, Doubt, happiness…); yet the last chapter "Exhaling Death" is an invitation to never lose hope. However far from being a mechanical aspect of the breathing organism "Inhale Exhale" is an internal contemplation of the Syrian society at a time of war in the city of Homs, with its peaceful streets that were transformed to battlefields.   

Regarding the inner urge that is calling the writer to pick up his pen and begin the writing process, which is according to Arbash an overwhelming flow of contradictory emotions which are very difficult to determine that have being expressed in different ways throughout the human history. They were first expressed by drawing on cave walls to later writing on social media walls, the human instinctive urge to express itself didn't change, the tools did. "This rush of feelings is unstoppable, you can’t deny or ignore! Thus some people play music, play sport, travel, draw, others just write..." exclaimed Arbash.

 

On the subject of the message that Arbash wanted to convey behind her choice of the title "Inhale Exhale" for her first novel, her answer was an internal revelation, like her novel: "This title resembles a deep struggle inside each of us as Syrians throughout the war years.  Like any Syrian citizen, I went through puzzling feelings, disappointment, and frustration. I got lost and uncertain whether to stay or to leave, to give this whole country up or not. Then I realized that even those who left could never forget it. That’s what I mean, it is something you cannot control just like your breath…you know that the moment it stops, you die… At this same moment you stop loving your homeland, everything deep inside you; dies and becomes meaningless."

The war on Syria is strongly present in Arabash novel's events especially bombings on Homs; but as well in the background of the characters who have all been affected by its consequences, "Let’s be honest, no one in Syria can say that he has survived this damn war. Those who are still alive lost a lot of their inner peace and balance and might never heal or go back to their normal life!" a shortcut reply by Bouran Arabash_ we have all being affected.

 Homs, the homeland city of Arbash and the setting of the novel is nothing but a miniature of her Mother Syria; "I may have created Diaa’, Emma, Ibrahim and all my novel characters on paper, but I believe that each of us carries one of them deep inside. Just like them, we all have lost beloved ones, homes, jobs…We all have gone through difficult times in which we lost our faith, our ability to go on with this inner struggle, whether to keep fighting or lose hope and leave. This bloody war has destroyed all that we built in the years of prosperity. "Arabash declared in heartburning voice full of woe.

The protagonist (Diaa') who is apparently "voiceless" because of an accident in his childhood, is paradoxically the voice of truth, logic, and love; which is an embedded message that the voice of truth is always muted. According to Arbash Diya her novel hero is the voice of "truth and purity", "Diya, the dumb character, is just a symbol of all those who are fighting to save the right. It is true that he lost his voice, but he kept fighting with his genuine thoughts, pure heart, and deep faith in his attempts to help others. That is what we are all supposed to do." explained Arbash.

In her novel Arbash has elaborated on the idea of mixed marriages between different religious sects in the Syrian community. Nevertheless, all the love stories between her characters have been repressed in a way or another; does Arabash implicitly want to say through them that the thought of accepting of this idea from a Syrian audience is still in its early phases. Unfortunately it is a big yes for Arbash who felt sorry and astonished how a society such as the Syrian society, with such a long history of successive civilizations, and being the cradle of the three Monotheistic religions, which all agree upon one message (love); still rejects the idea of mixed marriages. Arabash affirmed that those marriages could "increase the awareness of each religion towards the other and create a generation that is more open to the other, more tolerating." adding that if in times of peace we couldn't accept this idea, are we going to accept it in wartime? "Perhaps that is why I allowed myself to set a happy ending for Ibrahim and Heba’s relationship to say that hope is still there." She merrily exclaimed.

Throughout the novel we noticed indication of religious symbols both Islamic and Christian, like the cross or the crescent but as well metaphors and images representing the painful path of the saints who sought the truth; there is as well plain texts from holy books (Bible and Quran). What was the purpose of all those quotations? Arbash explained to Syriatimes that her usage of the religious discourse in her novel was to reflect two main ideas: the first is that all religions carry the same heavenly message (love and patience) which are the path to salvation. The second is that accepting the other does not mean abandoning your religion or faith, but rather an opportunity to broaden our horizons. Arabash affirmed as well that being a young writer, she really knows her generation trend, a generation that has grown in the war time, where hatred and distinction according to your religion was a method used on all Syrians to impose hostility between them. 

In regards to the Literary movement prosperity in Syria throughout the war, particularly feminine creative writing, Arbash disagreed since she sees iconic names in the Syrian literature  such as (Elfat Al-Edlbi, Nadia Khost, Colette Khory, Ghada Al-Samman), gained fame for their extraordinary literary works apart from war. However, she couldn't ignore that "war presents an environment rich with events, tales, and stories that many tried to document or overcome through films, TV series, paintings, short stories and novels", which is according to Arbash a good indication that makes us restore faith in the great ability of the Syrian people to turn pain into art and war into beauty. 

Bouran Arbash who has been an English instructor at the Private University of Kalamoon for many years, has finished writing her second novel, but because of the current situation of covid19, was forced to postpone publishing it. She stated to Syriatimes concerning her future projects that she is working on making her second novel a TV series. "It is not easy since I need to keep communicating with my characters to keep them alive in my memory." Arbash concluded her speech with Syriatimes.

However, for us to conclude we have to keep in mind that fiction is far from being for forgotten, it is the only living evidence of cultures, civilizations, peoples. Literature is the eternal track tracing back our breath _ Do never forget to "Inhale Exhale".

 

Interview: Lama Alhassanieh