Commentary: Osama Alomar’s very short stories

The below short stories are all by Syrian writer Osama Alomar is now a U.S. citizen, but his very short stories, originally written in Arabic, evoke the mood of his culture and homeland.

Alomar and Nigerian writer Unoma Azuah were guests of honor at the recent launch of a new Chicago City of Refuge initiative for exiled writers — a collaboration of the International Cities of Refuge Network; PEN International, an association of writers; the Chicago Network for Justice and Peace; and the Guild Literary Complex.

After nine years in Chicago, Alomar is now settling in Pittsburgh for a year, where a residency through the Pittsburgh City of Asylum program will provide housing and financial support so that he can focus on building his writing career in the U.S.

Chicago’s City of Refuge initiative might eventually offer such residencies, but presently it is supporting writers who have relocated to Chicago on their own by promoting their work and helping them develop connections within the arts community.


I read in a book the following piece of wisdom: "He who remains silent in the face of injustice is a mute Satan." I went out into the streets and saw Satans everywhere.

The Union of Our Home

When I saw how the citizens of those countries could move across borders without being subjected to a search — without opening their luggage, without security's inquisitive gaze; that they only needed to flash their identity card and quickly return it to their jacket pocket, as smiles and polite words surrounded them like a golden belt — when I saw all of this in the countries of the European Union, I thought about the Union of our home where I was obliged to submit to searches and surveillance and questioning whenever I wanted to cross the border of my brother's room.

Holes in the Sky

Fleeing a bloody war in the back of a truck, speeding away at dawn, a woman heard the voice of a child in torn clothing say to another child, "Look at the sky ... It's full of white holes! Where did they come from I wonder?"

"You don't know where they came from?" her friend replied eagerly. "The bullets from the guns made them!"

When the woman heard this she cried in burning agony and hugged the two children to her breast.


After years of searching, I was finally led to the place where I could see Freedom. She was on exhibit in a museum surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by thousands of heavily armed men. She looked sad and broken. When I asked one of the guards why she was there, he pulled me strongly by the arm and whispered in my ear, "She's priceless."

When Time Left Me

I followed time, taking hold of his hand in happiness. After we had walked a long way, exhaustion overtook me. I asked him if we could rest a while. It seemed as if he hadn't heard me. I repeated my request in a louder voice. He quickly let go of my hand and continued on his way, steadily, without wavering for a moment.


Translated by C. J. Collins and Osama Alomar, from "Fullblood Arabian," copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2008, 2014 by Osama Alomar. Translation copyright © 2014 by C. J. Collins and Osama Alomar. Reprinted courtesy of the author.

Osama Alomar was born in Damascus, Syria, in 1968. He moved to Chicago in 2008 and is currently living in Pittsburgh on a City of Asylum residency. He is the author of three collections of short stories and a volume of poetry in Arabic, and performs as a musician.

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Please contact Nick Patricca for additional information on Chicago City of Refuge initiative