Al-Assad’s 'modest and sensitive' cousin publishes romantic thriller
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While President Bashar al-Assad suppresses an uprising in Syria, his first cousin has written a romantic thriller warmly praised by Paris Match which describes Siwar al-Assad as a "modest and sensitive" man.
While his first cousin was brutally suppressing a rebellion in Syria, London-based Siwar al-Assad penned a romantic thriller.
The writer, from Syria’s first family, is cousin to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
He is also the son of Rifaat al-Assad, the man accused of masterminding the killing of tens of thousands of people in the Syrian city of Hama during the 1982 uprising.
But Siwar, it seems, is made of different stuff.
The 36-year-old’s novel “A Coeur Perdu” is about a United Nations lawyer who had a heart transplant in younger life and is investigating the circumstances of his operation.
The protagonist is motivated by a mysterious love interest – and also by a crime committed by his father.
‘The Little Prince’
“A Coeur Perdu” received gushing praise from society magazine Paris Match, which called it “a compact thriller showing great pace and amazing control for a first novel” while describing the author as "modest and sensitive."
It has only been published in French, so far. Future adaptations into English will be a challenge for translators, beginning with the title, a play on the French expression “a corps perdu” which means to do something fully and unreservedly.
Siwar has transplanted “coeur” (the French word for heart) in the place of “corps” (which means body). The literal translation would be “Of a lost heart”.
“I’ve always preferred to write in French,” Siwar told Paris Match. “It is the language of literature and it’s also a language that has a personal resonance for me, it’s what I started to learn at the beginning of my exile in Switzerland with ‘The Little Prince’.”
Siwar al-Assad left Syria in the early 1980’s after his father's failed attempt to wrest power from his brother, then President Hafez al-Assad.
Rifaat al-Assad currently lives in Mayfair, London.
‘No links’ with events in Syria
One of 16 siblings, Siwar was educated at schools in Switzerland and graduated in Law at the Sorbonne in Paris.
He now heads the London-based Al Alamia satellite television channel, which broadcasts culture and entertainment programmes in Arabic and English.
And while he told Paris Match that he “had certainly benefitted from the family’s material wealth”, he insisted he was not cashing in on his name to sell the book.
“It’s just a work of fiction,” he said. “If there’s an element of my own history in it, it is only in the theme of the scars that young love can inflict.”
“I even chopped out any references to the Middle East,” he added. “I don’t want anyone to make links between my writing and the tragic events in Syria over the last year.”
Asked if the plotline involving a parent’s crime was related to the accusations levelled at his own father, he insisted that there was “no link.”
“I would never question or investigate my father,” he said. “[The massacre at] Hama took place 30 years ago, and if he was really responsible he would have been convicted long ago.
“In writing this novel I have thought about neither myself or about my family. If certain elements are familiar, it is entirely coincidental."