The Smartest Guy on Facebook

Status Updates from Syria

In spring 2011, the Syrian people revolted against the government, which then brutally fought back. At about the same time, Aboud Saeed began his personal revolution on Facebook. His daily status updates have become a literary documentation of his life.

Translated from the Arabic by Sandra Hetzl, Yusuf Sabeel and Nik Kosmas, with an afterword and a glossary
4,99€ E-Book
250 pages, out of sale
ISBN 978-3-944543-09-3

October 2013

“Respect! … His status updates became sensations.”
ARTE Tracks English

“Aboud Saeed is one of the most important voices of the young Syrian generation.”
Zenith

“The Syrian Bukowski.”
ZDF Aspekte

“Saeed’s Facebook feed is a lot of fun to read. It’s quippy and clever and exotic but relatable. … Saeed is perhaps the world master of humble brag.”
Readux Reads

“Read this book! It is wham!”
Der Tagesspiegel

Summary: Status Updates from Syria

Aboud Saeed writes anecdotes, aphorisms, prose poems and commentary. About his mother, smoking, Facebook, love, and daily life during the violent Syrian conflict. Displaying a dark humor in sharing the absurdities of his life, he provides a different and more humane perspective on current events in his country than all the news and reports that usually reach us.

Also available in German (as ebook, book, radio play, theatre production), in Spanish, Portuguese, Danish and selected for the anthology Syria Speaks. Art and Culture from the Frontline which was awarded the English PEN Award. Some extracts have also been reprinted in the anthology for the Generational Triennal 2015 at The New Museum, New York, edited by Brian Droitcour.

“For Those Who Are Still Asking Who Is Aboud Saeed”

From an Interview with Jennifer MacKenzie and Omar Andron for Coldfront Magazine

How does fear change a poet or a poem? In Syria until March 2011 that question was probably unanswerable, so deeply was fear ingrained in the experience of daily life—in seeing and choosing. As Aboud Saeed mentions, the protests that started that spring also inspired a radical transformation of aesthetic consciousness and cultural production. Though it continues to be overshadowed and foreshortened by brutal violence and loss, this creative sea-change has not stopped, and Saeed’s unprecedented voice puts him at its crest. His poetry is free in every sense of the word, and beside it, even the work of his contemporaries feels tradition-bound. Born and raised in Minbej, a small town northeast of Aleppo, he now lives in Berlin.

JM: How did you start writing?

AS: Basically, I had no plan to be a writer. One time I was inspired by this online magazine called Oxygen; they published really experimental stuff, and I tried to write something for them. The editor sent me a reply saying this is amazing, keep going. I laughed—what do you mean, keep going? I don’t know how to write. Then when Facebook got going, when I came back from work I’d open my computer, sign in and write short stories about details that happened at work and with my family. After a while I discovered that what I was writing is called poetry.

JM: You didn’t have any idea before that this thing is poetry and I want to write like this?

AS: Until now, honestly, some of my relatives don’t know I’m writing, and they don’t believe it.

JM: Why?

AS: Because from where to where did you turn into a writer? You spent your whole life working as a blacksmith, how did you become a writer? We never saw you reading a book or putting a pen to paper, how did you become a poet and have books in Germany? (…)

The author, the translators

Aboud Saeed was born in 1983 and lives in the township of Manbij, in the province of Aleppo in northern Syria. Manbij was heavily bombed by the Assad-regime in 2012 and early 2013. Aboud Saeed lives with his mother and seven siblings in one room in a small house. After the ninth grade, he left school, and trained to be a smith and welder. For the past 11 years, he’s worked in a workshop. For three years he was a foreign worker in a plastic factory in Lebanon, where he lived in a tin shack. In 2008, he received a high school equivalency diploma, and enrolled in a university to study economics. The university is currently closed due to the political situation. In 2009 Saeed created a Facebook account and posted there every day. The Smartest Guy on Facebook, a selection of his status updates, in which he writes about his mother, smoking, Facebook, love, and daily life during the violent Syrian conflict, is his first book, which has so far been translated into German, Spanish, Portuguese and Danish. The Lebanese newspaper Annahar wrote of him in late December 2012, “Going on Facebook without getting to know Aboud Saeed is like traveling to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower.” A collection of Saeed’s short stories Life-size Newsticker has been published with mikrotext in German in 2015.

Sandra Hetzl was born in 1980 in Munich and lives in Berlin. She studied Visual Culture Studies at the University of the Arts (UdK) and works as a documentary filmmaker and translator from the Arabic. More information at www.sandrahetzl.com

Yusuf Sabeel was born in the Manbaj of Somalia and grew up in California. He studied Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Over the past two years he has been traveling and working in North Africa, Europe and The Middle East. He currently lives in Rabat.

Nik Kosmas was born in 1985 in Minneapolis (USA). He lives and works in Berlin as an artist, consultant and personal trainer.