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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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