The Gist of It

The Gist of It
(working title)
ملخص ما جرى
(Mulakhas ma jara)

Written by

(رشا عباس)

Published by


Contemporary Syria from a dark psychedelic perspective

The Gist of It is a collection of 20 short stories that portray the consequences of long years of war in Syria, not on a political level, but rather on a human level where places and relationships are dangerous; memories from before the war, and how loneliness is experienced at home or abroad. This book also tackles issues such as detention, rebellion, and pervasive authority via mass media. This collection is eclectic: some stories like “Filthy Beauty” and “Statement of Absolute Hatred” are short but encapsulate all the elements that make a good tale, while others like “Falling Down Politely” and “You Can Call Me Velvet” are longer and play with deconstruction and multiple perspectives. Many narrators are young women who are both vulnerable and strong. Despite the variety of topics, all the stories challenge our perception of reality. The language is chiselled but accessible and the style oscillates between hyper-realism and subtle irony.

Approximate number of pages: 112 p.

Foreign rights: contact the author‘s agent


Translation samples

Reasons to publish this book

The Gist of It exemplifies Rasha Abbas’s talent at crafting unconventional short stories: she develops unexpected storylines that ultimately are about universal human feelings. This collection contributes to the memorialisation of the Syrian crisis avoiding pathos and portraying scenarios that have not been addressed before in other writings. The style is innovative and enjoyable and rich in cultural references.


Prizes and awards

  • The short story “You Can Call Me Velvet” translated by Katharine Halls was short-listed for the 2021 ArabLit Story Prize
  • From this collection, the short story “How to Swim the Backstroke with a Shilka Missile” translated by Fatima El-Kalay was shortlisted for the 2018 ArabLit Story Prize


A summary of what happened by Rasha Abbas, a female Syrian writer who lives in exile, is an attempt to describe the indescribable by Gorki, 2022

Schreiben gegen den Tod: Neue Literatur syrischer Autoren (in German) by Otsee Zeitung, May 2018

Mein Name ist unwichtig (in German) by Süddeutsche Zeitung, April 2018

Rasha Abbas and Alice Guthrie reading The Gist of It by The Massachussets Review, November 2015 (literary talk)

Abbas is an important figure in the exciting new wave of Syrian literature pouring out since 2011 by Arablit, December 2014

Reviewed by Cristina Dozio