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A meditation on friendship, loss and poetry in the wake of the Syrian uprising, and the first publication of Falschrum Books
58 backers pledged €2,597 to help bring this project to life.

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About Us

Falschrum Books is a not-for-profit publisher, founded in 2019 in Berlin. Operating at the intersection of art and literature, its goal is to foster collaborations between artists of different national, social, and economic backgrounds. In particular, it strives to bring the reality of the Arab-speaking world closer to a Western milieu too often consumed by its own one-sided media coverage of “the Middle East.”

Our first book, entitled To a Syrian Prisoner of Conscience, for which we are now seeking funding, is the product of a collaboration between artists from three different countries (Germany, the USA, and Syria). Part travelogue, part elegy, it illuminates the tumultuous weeks immediately preceding the Syrian uprising, offering readers a sustained meditation on politics, friendship, and the nature of the poetic act.

Examples from Stefan's notebooks
Examples from Stefan's notebooks

To a Syrian Prisoner of Conscience

In 2011, the American poet Gregory Carlock travelled to Damascus, to research a book he was writing on contemporary Arabic poetry. There, he met Waddah, a young Syrian writer, who introduced him to the city’s underground of poets, hash-heads, and political activists. The two began making translations of one another’s poems – from Arabic into English, and from English into Arabic – which they read every week at Bayt al-Qasid, Lukman Derky’s ecstatic gatherings in the basement of the Hotel Fardous.

In early March, Waddah took Carlock on a road trip to his village in the south, back north through Homs and Hama, and on to Aleppo, where he introduced him to the woman he loved. 

Falschrum's office in Berlin, with A2 posters of Stefan's drawings
Falschrum's office in Berlin, with A2 posters of Stefan's drawings

After an overnight return to Damascus, the two gave one more public reading, before Carlock returned home. It was March 14th – the eve of the first “day of rage” against the Syrian regime.

Eighteen months later, back in Germany, Carlock learned that Waddah had been kidnapped, on a cold December morning, by state security forces. For a year afterwards, he didn’t know whether his friend was still alive.

In that period of limbo, Carlock wrote Waddah a letter – a long prose poem, in which he meticulously, and expressively, reconstructed the details of the pair’s time together. Part travel journal, part elegy for a people, and place, sacrificed on the altar of war, To a Syrian Prisoner of Conscience offers readers a glimpse into the tumultuous weeks immediately preceding the Syrian uprising, as well as a sustained meditation on the political limitations of the poetic act.

Sample page from the book
Sample page from the book

This edition by Falschrum Books (36 pages, print-run: 600), is illustrated with ink drawings by the Berlin-based scholar and artist Stefan Maneval, which he made on his own journeys through the streets of Beirut. Rather than directly reproduce scenes from the poem, Maneval’s drawings take a variety of concrete objects as their subject, illustrating instead the poem’s psychic landscape of loss, absence, and trauma.

To date, the poem and drawings have been presented twice in the form of a reading/exhibition — once in Berlin (2017), and once in Beirut (2018). Nothing expresses the work’s force better than Waddah’s own reaction to the Beirut reading: “Today,” he wrote, “you gave me back a memory that the security forces had stolen... a memory I thought would never return, since I don’t even have a single image of it.”  

Gregory reading in Beirut
Gregory reading in Beirut

Falschrum Books

To a Syrian Prisoner of Conscience is a perfect opening salvo on Falschrum’s humble mission to positively influence an ever-more-polarized cultural landscape, too often dominated by the demands of narrow national, ethnic, and economic self-interests.

A non-profit publishing house, founded in Berlin by Stefan Maneval and Leslie Frey in 2019, Falschrum aims to foster collaborations between artists of different national, social, and economic backgrounds. In particular, it hopes to bring the reality of the Arab-speaking world closer to a European milieu which, though it already partakes of it, remains, as ever, enthralled by one or another politicized media hallucinations of “the Middle East.”

To this end, Falschrum invests every cent that it makes from its books, into the production of more beautiful books, and the organization of events designed to gather Berlin’s diverse cultural trajectories under the banner of art and literature.

Drawings and drafts of the book design
Drawings and drafts of the book design

Falschrum's founders sincerely thank you for reading their appeal, and for considering making a donation:

Stefan Maneval earned his Ph.D. from FU Berlin and works as a scholar of the Middle East, illustrator, and publisher. He is co-editor of Muslim Matter (Berlin: Revolver Publishing 2016), as well as the author of articles on contemporary politics, cultural heritage and the art scene in Saudi Arabia. As an artist and curator, he has participated in exhibitions at the Museum for Islamic Art Berlin, the Wunderkammer Trento, Umam D&R Beirut, Goethe Institute Beirut, etc. He has been illustrating Carlock’s poetry for five years.

Leslie Frey is an art historian who, following her studies, completed an editorial internship with TASCHEN. She has worked as a curatorial assistant for the Austrian pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2003), organized a series of events at the Kunsthalle Bielefeld, and served as an editor at Random House. From 2013 to 2018, she worked as the founder and director of a gallery in Berlin. Since September 2018, she has been directing the Flüchtlingskirche (“Refugee Church”) in Berlin.

Gregory Carlock (b. 1979, New Jersey, USA) is a poet, critic, and scholar of Arabic literature. He earned his B.A. in Architecture and Urban Planning from Princeton University, his M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from Columbia University, and his Ph.D. in Arabic Studies from the Free University of Berlin. He is the author (with Daniel Lergon) of the poetry collection Fire Untouched by Smoke (Madrid: Ivorypress 2015), and of a study of the Syrian-Lebanese poet, Adunis. He lives in Berlin with his wife and daughter.

Risks and challenges

We are confident in our ability to manage any unexpected challenges that might arise with this project. Given its relatively modest scale, we don't anticipate any. Of course, if any issues do arise, we will immediately communicate them to our backers.

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    1 signed copy of our book

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    1 signed copy, 3 digital prints

    Thank you very much! You'll receive one copy of To a Syrian Prisoner of Conscience, signed by the author and illustrator. In addition, you'll get three high-quality digital prints of your choice from the drawings in the book.

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    2 copies, 3 prints

    Thanks for your donation! You'll receive two copies of To a Syrian Prisoner of Conscience, one for you and one for a friend, both signed by the author and illustrator. In addition, you'll get three high-quality digital prints of your choice from the drawings in the book.

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    2 copies, 1 poster

    Thanks for your generous support! You'll receive two copies of To a Syrian Prisoner of Conscience, one for you and one for a friend, both signed by the author and illustrator. In addition, you'll get one poster of your choice of a drawing from the book. The poster is in A2 format, printed on our favourite 170g paper, and signed by the artist.

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    Pledge €100 or more About US$ 112

    2 copies, 1 silkscreen print

    Thank you for your generousity! You'll receive two copies of To a Syrian Prisoner of Conscience, one for you and one for a friend, both signed by the author and illustrator. In addition, you'll get one hand-made silkscreen print, signed and numbered, in A3 format, from an edition of three.

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    Pledge €120 or more About US$ 134

    2 copies, 1 original drawing

    Thank you for helping us on our journey! You'll receive two copies of To a Syrian Prisoner of Conscience, one for you and one for a friend, both signed by the author and illustrator. In addition, you'll receive one original drawing from the artist's notebook, in A5 format, signed and mounted.

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Funding period

- (30 days)