My Road from Damascus: A Memoir

Saeed, Jamal

  • “A lyrical, extremely rich narrative of loss, memory, and trauma.” — STARRED review, Kirkus Reviews

    An extraordinary account of survival in Syria’s most notorious military prisons that is written with “brutal clarity — and yet, there is a poetic quality to the telling.” — Frances Itani, award-winning author of Deafening and Remembering the Bones

    Jamal Saeed arrived as a refugee in Canada in 2016. In his native Syria, as a young man, his writing pushed both social and political norms. For this reason, as well as his opposition to the regimes of the al-Assads, he was imprisoned on three occasions for a total of 12 years. In each instance, he was held without formal charge and without judicial process.

    My Road from Damascus not only tells the story of Saeed’s severe years in Syria’s most notorious military prisons but also his life during the country’s dramatic changes. Saeed chronicles modern Syria from the 1950s right up to his escape to Canada in 2016, recounting its descent from a country of potential to a pawn of cynical and corrupt powers. He paints a picture of village life, his youthful love affairs, his rebellion as a young Marxist, and his evolution into a free thinker, living in hiding as a teenager for 30 months while being hunted by the secret police. He recalls his brutal prison years, his final release, and his family’s harrowing escape to Canada.

    While many prison memoirs focus on the cruelty of incarceration, My Road from Damascus offers a tapestry of Saeed’s whole life. It looks squarely at brutality but also at beauty and poetry, hope and love.

    Book Club Guide: My Road from Damascus by Jamal Saeed


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  • Jamal Saeed spent 12 years as a prisoner of conscience in Syria before being invited to Canada in 2016. He continues to raise awareness about Syria’s ongoing civil war and humanitarian crisis through his work as an activist, editor, visual artist, and author. He lives in Kingston, ON.

  • Published: October 2022

    ISBN: 9781770416215

    Dimensions: 6 x 9 in.

    Pages: 440

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“A lyrical, extremely rich narrative of loss, memory, and trauma.” — Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“This memoir tells not only of his time in Syria’s most brutal military prisons but of village life, youth, love, poetry, and a country and society warped from its potential.” — Quill & Quire

“This riveting memoir of a Syrian dissident, featuring an outstanding, often musical performance, deserves comparisons to Viktor Frank's Man's Search for Meaning in its ability to find the beauty of human connection in utterly inhumane conditions.” — Library Journal Audio Book Review

“Jamal writes with brutal clarity — and yet, there is a poetic quality to the telling. He manages to hold in balance the idyllic memories of growing up in a land he loves, alongside his experiences inside Syrian prisons, where he peels back the dark walls and allows us to witness and pay heed to the unthinkable.” — Frances Itani

“Written in poetic prose in which the reader can trace the cadence of Saeed’s native Arabic — and which illustrates why Syrian philosopher Antun Maqdisi once likened Saeed to Maupassant — My Road from Damascus explains that love and loss are intertwined and shows how the former can help us withstand the latter.” —Quill & Quire

“It took me by surprise how Saeed is able to interweave calm detachment and often, even humour into situations that must have been bizarre and horrific at the moment...The distance he maintains from his own moments of agony is remarkable. For a while, I forget, that the narrator is sharing his lived experience, and at the moment that I am reminded again, I feel a deep sense of honour and gratitude, that I should be allowed this candid peek into his life. Saaed makes a friend out of every reader.” — Whistler Writers Fest,