Planet of Clay

Finalist, National Book Awards 2021 for Translated Literature

ISBN 9781642861013
World Editions
Samar Yazbek

Samar Yazbek is a Syrian writer, novelist, and journalist. She was born in Jableh in 1970 and studied literature before beginning her career as a journalist and a scriptwriter for Syrian television and film. Her novels include Child of Heaven, Clay, Cinnamon, and In Her Mirrors. (Photo credit: Muhsin Akgun Raya Agency) More about this author >

Leri Price

Leri Price is an award-winning literary translator of contemporary Arabic fiction. She has twice been a Finalist for the National Book Award for Translated Literature, both in 2021 for her translations of Samar Yazbek’s Planet of Clay, and in 2019 for Khaled Khalifa’s Death Is Hard Work. More about this author >

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Translated from the Arabic


Rima, a young girl from Damascus, longs to walk, to be free to follow the will of her feet, but instead is perpetually constrained. She finds refuge in a fantasy world full of colored crayons, secret planets, and The Little Prince, reciting passages of the Qur’an like a mantra as everything and everyone around her is blown to bits. Since Rima hardly ever speaks, people think she’s crazy, but she is no fool—the madness is in the battered city around her. One day while taking a bus through Damascus, a soldier opens fire and her mother is killed. Rima, wounded, is taken to a military hospital before her brother leads her to the besieged area of Ghouta—where, between bombings, she writes her story. In Planet of Clay, Samar Yazbek offers a surreal depiction of the horrors taking place in Syria, in vivid and poetic language and with a sharp eye for detail and beauty.

Judges Citation

Samar Yazbek’s Planet of Clay is a lyrical and moving portrait of Rima, a young neurodivergent girl living through the horrors of the Syrian civil war. Rima yearns to be free but is always, quite literally, tied to her mother, her brother, his friend, the bed, the wall, even as everyone runs around her, like Yazbek's fitting stream-of-consciousness prose, as bombs explode and gunfire blasts and the city collapses. This extraordinary translation by Leri Price conjures Rima’s own secret planets, a world of colors, and another life.


Samar Yazbek and Leri Price, 2021 NBAwards Translated Literature Finalists, reads from PLANET OF CLAY