Keepers of the Air

Keepers of the Air
(working title)
حرّاس الهواء
(Hurras al hawa)

Written by

(روزا ياسين حسن)
Syria 2009: political prisoners and asylum seekers live in waiting

Anat Ismael works as an interpreter at the Canadian Embassy in Damascus where she translates for asylum seekers. She is pregnant, and as her body changes, she reflects on her life as she waits for her husband, a political prisoner, to be released. The stories she hears from the asylum seekers, victims of repression from throughout the Arab world, are linked to hers and those of her friends.

Approximate number of pages: 249

Foreign right: contact the author


Categories: fiction & novel
Time periods: 2000s & 21th century

Reasons to publish this book

This book successfully intertwines the stories of political prisoners and asylum seekers with the sensory experience of women and their bodies. It refuses to let some stories take precedence over others: here sexual frustration, immigration and ancient poetry are all put on the same level. It likewise does away with the divide between Syria before and after 2011, portraying the violence and injustice of Syria in 2009.


  • Italian


    by Federica Pistono

    published as

    I guardiani dell’aria in Italy in 2017 by Poiesis
  • French


    by Emmanuel Varlet

    published as

    Les Gardiens de l’Air in France in 2014 by Actes Sud (249 p.)
  • German


    by Stephan Milich and Christine Battermann

    published as

    Wächter der Lüfte in Germany in 2013 by Alawi Verlag

Prizes and awards

  • Longlisted for the Arab Booker Prize in 2010


I guardiani dell’aria: narrare per superare il trauma (in Italian) by Arabesque, January 2022

Rosa, la Syrienne au stylo résistant (in French) by Le Journal du Dimanche, May 2014

Ce roman est l’un des plus représentatifs d’une nouvelle littérature qui, transgressant tous les tabous, s’est employée à ressusciter la mémoire interdite de deux décennies marquées par l’infinie brutalité de la répression (in French) by Le Monde, April 2014

Reviewed by Jessica Binks