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  • Welcome to ALT Magazine & Press: Hazawi Prize Announces 2023 Shortlist: (Sana'a, Yemen) - The shortlist for the 2023 Hazawi Prize for Yemeni Literature has been revealed, announcing the ten writers who have been selected as finalists for this prestigious award.
  • Now in its second yearly round, the Hazawi Prize recognizes exceptional contributions to fiction in Yemeni literature. Organized by the Hazawi Cultural Foundation, this annual prize aims to promote Yemeni literature and support creative writers.
  • This year's shortlist features both emerging and renowned Yemeni authors. The ten works advancing to the final round of judging are:
  • - Abdullah Faisal shortlisted for his novel, Spirits and Secrets.
  • - Aisha Saleh shortlisted for her novel, Under the Ashes
  • - Farouk Merish shortlisted for his novel, A Dignified Stranger
  • - Ahmed Ashraf shortlisted for his novel, A Painful Belt
  • - Ghassan Khalid shortlisted for his novel, A Sky that Rains Fear
  • - Hosam Adel shortlisted for his novel, The Lord of the Black Dog
  • - Asmaa Abdulrazak shortlisted for her novel, Shrapnels
  • - Abdullah Abdu Muhammad shortlisted for his novel, The Road to Sana'a
  • - Najah Bahkeim shortlisted for her novel, The Final Decision
  • - Samir AbdulFattah shortlisted for her novel, What We Cannot See
  • The winner will be revealed at an award ceremony in Sana'a later where they will receive $1,500 USD. Second and third prizes of $1,000 USD each will also be awarded. All shortlisted works are celebrated for chronicling Yemen's rich culture and wartime experiences. This prestigious prize continues highlighting the nation's thriving literary community.

Revisiting the Yemeni Revolution in Suhair Assamman’s “Behind the Walls of Memory. – Hatem Al-Shamea

Revisiting the Yemeni Revolution in Suhair Assamman’s “Behind the Walls of Memory”


Hatem Al-Shamea


Suhair Assamman’s short story, “Behind the Walls of Memory,” provides a poignant reflection on the impact of the Yemeni revolution and the enduring scars it left on the lives of its participants. Through the protagonist, Khaled, who struggles with amnesia, Assamman delves into the themes of collective memory, political upheaval, and the persistence of traumatic experiences. The narrative invites readers to explore the complexities of a nation’s struggle for change, all within the confines of one man’s fractured recollection.

The Absence of Memory

In “Behind the Walls of Memory,” Suhair Assamman masterfully explores the theme of memory and its absence as a metaphor for the collective amnesia that plagues Yemeni society in the aftermath of the revolution. Through the character of Khaled, who suffers from amnesia, Assamman unveils a narrative of loss, disconnection, and the struggle to remember.

The opening of the story introduces us to a middle-aged woman who enters a room holding a glass of milk. Her greeting to Khaled, who is deeply engrossed in a photograph, sets the stage for the overarching theme of memory. Khaled’s fixation on the image on the wall, and his determination to remember it, encapsulate the broader Yemeni society’s desperate desire to recollect the revolutionary events that have profoundly shaped their lives.

Khaled’s inability to remember, or the “absence of memory,” serves as a poignant metaphor for the collective amnesia that envelopes Yemen in the aftermath of the revolution. This is not merely a personal affliction but a reflection of a nation’s struggle to recall its past, reconcile its present, and envision its future. The photograph symbolizes a historical moment that remains elusive, much like the collective memory of the revolution, which is at risk of fading away.

One of the critical aspects of the “absence of memory” is the sense of disorientation it brings to Khaled’s life. He is perpetually searching for the lost memory, attempting to make sense of the fragments of his past. This disorientation parallels the broader societal confusion about the aftermath of the revolution. Yemenis find themselves disoriented in a new political landscape, grappling with uncertainty and unrest. The missing memory represents the elusive answers to their pressing questions about the nation’s path forward.

Khaled’s internal struggle is not merely an individual affliction but also a reflection of the larger collective amnesia that plagues the nation. As he tries to unlock his own memories, Yemen tries to unlock its historical narrative, marred by the chaos and brutality of the revolution. The picture on the wall, a symbol of his personal history, serves as a microcosm of Yemen’s historical narrative, which is concealed, unclear, and yearning to be remembered.

Throughout the story, there is a sense that the “absence of memory” is a source of profound emotional suffering for Khaled, mirroring the emotional anguish experienced by many Yemenis. The inability to remember signifies a loss, and it is in this loss that we discover the story’s emotional depth. Khaled’s fixation on the photograph, his attempt to shake it to reveal its secrets, reflects the longing for closure and understanding that plagues the collective consciousness of the nation.

Khaled’s mother, a maternal figure in the story, serves as a comforting yet enigmatic presence. Her assurance that Khaled will remember evokes the hope that Yemen will eventually make sense of its turbulent history. She offers Khaled a glass of milk, a gesture of nourishment and sustenance, symbolizing the sustenance that collective memory provides to a nation. Her role mirrors the role of those in Yemeni society who strive to preserve, pass on, and rekindle the nation’s collective memory.

In essence, the “absence of memory” not only pertains to the personal experiences of individuals like Khaled but also signifies the struggle of a nation to reconcile its past and present. Yemen’s history, with its revolutionary upheavals and socio-political transformations, is marked by a collective amnesia, where the events of the past seem shrouded in obscurity, much like Khaled’s lost memory. The story delves into the complexities of the process of remembering, which requires patience, perseverance, and a willingness to confront the ghosts of the past.

The Trauma of the Yemeni Revolution

“Behind the Walls of Memory” offers a poignant portrayal of the trauma experienced by Yemenis during and after the revolution. Through the character of Khaled, who gradually regains fragments of memory related to the revolution, Suhair Assamman invites readers to confront the profound human toll of political upheaval.

The story presents a vivid depiction of the Yemeni revolution, marked by marches, demonstrations, and the demand for political change. These events serve as a backdrop against which Khaled’s traumatic experiences are unraveled. The portrayal of the protests, the unity of the demonstrators, and the oppressive tactics of the regime, including the use of tear gas and violence, underscores the raw intensity of the revolution.

As Khaled’s memory begins to resurface in fragments, the story vividly conveys the chaos and violence of the revolution. The descriptions of masked individuals on rooftops and the sound of gunfire piercing the air capture the tension and brutality of the period. The revolution’s impact on Khaled’s psyche is evident, as he recalls images of tragedy and loss, highlighting the psychological scars left by the traumatic events.

The term “martyrs” is introduced in the narrative, and it plays a pivotal role in revealing the trauma of the Yemeni revolution. The story portrays these martyrs as individuals who have lost their lives in the pursuit of change. These martyrs are commemorated on posters and walls throughout the city, each with a story to tell. Khaled’s association with them speaks to the profound impact of the revolution on the lives of Yemenis. It is a testament to the sacrifices made by individuals who, like Khaled, were once mere observers but were ultimately drawn into the heart of the revolution.

Narrative Complexity

Assamman’s narrative style is notable for its complexity. The story weaves between Khaled’s internal struggle with memory loss and the external events of the revolution. This dual perspective provides readers with a nuanced understanding of the profound psychological and societal impact of political upheaval. The narrative invites us to contemplate how memory shapes individual and collective identities.

Furthermore, the story raises questions about the significance of bearing witness to historical events. Khaled’s initial role as an observer of the revolution underscores the idea that the act of witnessing carries its own weight. It is a reminder that those who stand on the periphery of historical events are not immune to their consequences.

The Amnesia of a Nation

In “Behind the Walls of Memory,” Suhair Assamman explores the multifaceted repercussions of the Yemeni revolution. Khaled’s struggle with memory loss mirrors the nation’s battle to remember, honor, and make sense of its past. The story illuminates how collective amnesia can impact a people’s quest for justice, accountability, and change.

In many ways, Khaled’s personal journey is a microcosm of Yemen’s quest for a new identity and a brighter future. The story underscores the resilience of a people who, despite the challenges they face, continue to demand a better tomorrow. It also serves as a poignant reminder that the walls of memory, both individual and collective, are not easily penetrated but must be addressed with patience and perseverance.


Suhair Assamman’s “Behind the Walls of Memory” is a powerful exploration of memory, trauma, and the enduring legacy of political upheaval. Through Khaled’s journey, the story offers readers a window into the complexities of a nation’s struggle for change and its commitment to preserving the memory of a revolution that changed lives forever. As Yemen continues to navigate its path forward, Assamman’s story serves as a testament to the resilience of its people and the indomitable nature of human memory.

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