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Posts Tagged ‘Mahmoud Darwish

What you miss in your mother, after she passed away?

أحنُ إلى خبز أمي وقهوةِ أمي ولمسةِ أمي
وتكبر فيَّ الطفولةُ يوماً على صدر يومِ

و أعشق عمري لأني إذا متُّ .. أخجل من دمع أمي
خذيني .. إذا عدتُ يوماً وشاحاً لهدبكْ

وغطي عظامي بعشبٍ تعمَّد من طهر كعبكْ
وشدِّي وثاقي بخصلة شعرٍ بخيطٍ يلوِّح
في ذيل ثوبك

عساني أصيرُ إلهًا .. إلهًا أصير

إذا ما لمستُ قرارة قلبك
ضعيني إذا مارجعتُ وقودا بتنور ناركْ
وحبل غسيل على سطح داركْ

لأني فقدت الوقوف بدون صلاةِ نهاركْ

هرمتُ فردّي نجوم الطفولة
حتى اشاركْ صغار العصافير
درب الرجوع لعُشِّ إنتظارك ..•~

محمود درويش : الأسطورة

“The Stranger”. Poem by late Palestinian Mahmoud DarwishThis person was a stranger to me

I had no idea what she could have done before
I saw a coffin, people in mourning
I walked with her, her head low, in an important respect attitude
She was walking ahead of me.
I found no opportunity to ask her my well-composed questions
“Who is in the coffin? How this late person died? How it lived?”
Of the many ways people dies from,
I can vouch for one that I experienced
“Living badly”

“The Stranger”. Poem by late Mahmoud Darwish

An abridged translation of Jamil Berry’s French version from Arabic


This person was a stranger to me
I had no idea what she could have done before
I saw a coffin, people in mourning
I walked with her, her head low, in an important respect attitude
She was walking ahead of me.
I found no opportunity to ask her my well-composed questions
“Who is in the coffin? How this late person died? How it lived?”
Of the many ways people dies from,
I can vouch for one that I experienced
“Living badly”
Jamil Berry translated the poem into French on FB this April 30, 2014 


Cette personne m’était étrangère
J’ignorais ce qu’elle a pu faire naguère .
J’ai vu un cercueil , des personnes endeuillées
J’ai marché avec elles tête baissée
Par un respect imposant
Moi derrière , elles devant

Je n’ai pas trouvé un seul écueil
Pour poser mes questions ressassées
«Qui est cette personne dans le cercueil ?
Où a t elle vécue ? De quoi a-t-elle trépassé ?

La mort a des causes multiples
L’une d’entre elles , je vous la livre
J’en fais mienne; c’est le mal de vivre .

Je me suis demandé :
Cette personne nous voit-elle ?
Depuis son lointain néant
Déplore-t-elle notre destination?

Elle n’ouvrira certes pas son cercueil
recouvert de couronnes fleuries
Sans nous faire des adieux endoloris
Ou nous susurrer la vérité

Mais de quelle vérité il s’agit ?

Décédée ; pour elle c’est trop tard .
Il se peut qu’en ces heures sombres
Elle soit en train de replier son ombre
Pour parachever son départ .

Elle fut la seule personne qui ce matin
Ne pleura pas de chagrin et ne vit point
La mort planant tel un rapace aiguisé
Au dessus de nos têtes médusées

Que sont les vivants pour la mort
Si ce n’est ses cousins germains …
Les personnes mortes elles , à jamais
Par son calme et son sommeil fraternisées .

Je n’ai trouvé nulle raison pour demander
Qui est cette personne étrangère et
Quel était son nom , qui ne paraît pas illustre
Les marcheurs derrière une petite vingtaine
Et une , si on compte avec , ma présence frustre

Mon cœur erra devant l’église et sa porte
Il se peut me dis je , que cette personne morte
Soit un écrivain ou un travailleur
Un réfugié , un voleur ou un tueur .

Comment le savoir , les morts ne parlent pas
Ne rêvent pas , ni couchés , ni debout ni assis
Avec eux leurs différences meurent aussi .

Et si cette personne étrangère n’était que moi
Et que cet enterrement était le mien
De jour en jour retardé
Par un incident d’ordre Divin ? …

Retardé pour de multiples raisons
Parmi lesquelles il se peut même
Que ce soit …
Une erreur non corrigée dans mon poème

( Traduction Jamil BERRY )

See More

قصائد محمود درويش لاعب النرد / ملوك النهاية / الجدارية / انتظرها / وعود من العاصفة /قصيدة الأرض/أربعة عناوين شخصية/ريتا/هكذا قالت الشجرة المهملة/الجسر/عن الصمود/الآن في المنفى/بطاقة هوية – سجل!/أنا يوسف يا أبي/ضباب كثيف على الجسر/فرحاً بشئ ما/كمقهى صغير هو الحب/لا أنام لأحلم/الجدارية/ لوصف زهر اللوز/هنالك عرس/الجميلات هن الجميلات/البئر/…
Ajoutée par Cortizooooon

Trailing a butterfly by Mahmoud Darwish (Part 2, December 30, 2008)

Hope is neither matter nor a concept. It is a talent

What…Why all that?

He is walking alone, having a short discussion with himself.  He is uttering words that are not meant to mean anything “What… Why is all that?”

He does not mean to complain or even to inquire; the nonsense sentence is not meant to starting a tempo that could aid for a youthful walk.

As he repeats “What…Why all that” he feels that he is in company.  The passerby does not believe that he is a lunatic; he is probably a poet receiving revelations from Satan.

He didn’t know why he recalled Genghis Khan; maybe he saw a white horse without a saddle, flying over a destroyed building in the valley.

An old man was pissing by an eucalyptus tree; the ascending young girls from the valley laughed at him and threw pistachios at him.

Two strangers

He looks up and sees a shining star.  He looks down and sees his grave in the valley.

He looks at a beautiful woman who does not notice him.  He looks in the mirror and a stranger looking like him is reflected to him

We arrived late

There is a precarious stage we label “maturity”; we are neither optimist nor pessimist.

We are past passion, longing, and recalling the opposite names of things.

We are too confused between forms and contents.

We acquired the habit of pondering before speaking.  We adopted the style of physicians inspecting a wound.

We try to remember the past and wonder “How many mistakes have we committed? Have we reached wisdom a tad late?”

We are not sure from where the wind is blowing; what is the benefit if someone is still waiting for us by the foot of the mountain to share a prayer for our safe journey?

We are neither optimist nor pessimist; just a tad late.

We wish the lad was a tree

An ancient poet said “I wished the lad was a rock”.  It would have been more appropriate if he wished the lad to be a tree.

A big tree cares for the smaller one; it prolongs its shadow and sends a bird, now and then, to keep company.

No tree violates its neighboring tree, and never mocks it if it does not bear fruit.

When a tree is transformed into a boat it learns to swim; when shaped in a door it keeps the secrets, when a desk it teaches the poet never to become a logger.

A tree stands respectful to passersby; it bends lightly with majesty to the winds.  I wish the lad was a tree.

The talent of hope

Whenever he thought of hope he felt tired and bored. He invented a tricky illusion and said “Now, how can I measure a mirage?”

He rummaged through his documents and dusty files of who he was before his invention.

He could not find any copy where he might have noted down, events of fast beating heart and carelessness.

He could not find a trace of standing in the rain for no reason.

Each time he thinks of hope the distance widens between a heavy body and a heart inflicted with wisdom.

He opened a window and saw two cats playing with a puppy dog.  He said: “hope is not the opposite of abjectness; maybe it is faith in a God who is careless; a God who let us rely on our individual talents to pierce through the cloud.”

He said : “Hope is neither matter nor a concept. It is a talent”.

He swallowed a pill for blood pressure; he forgot to query Hope…he felt some kind of happiness of unknown source.

“Trailing a butterfly” by late Palestinian Mahmoud Darwish (Part 3, December 30, 2008)

Routine in Gaza

Low atmospheric pressure; a north-western wind; rain drops, and a wrinkled gray sea is the background.  Autumn clouds (a euphemism, symbolic term for coming massacres);

30 fallen martyrs today in north Gaza. Two women died in a demonstration demanding their share of rights.

Autumn clouds on a clear sunny day destroyed an entire family of 17 members under the debris of their home.  This unusual life is pretty much routine in Gaza.

People can still wish a good morning if they survived a fighter jet bomb: They resume their routine of burying the martyrs.

The people in Gaza are never sure to return to a standing home as the tanks and bulldozers surround the area. People of Gaza wish to be foxes to have safe heaven in grottos but there are none.

We are asking that the devils agree for a short truth to bury the dead.

(Gaza is surrounded by unfriendly States of Israel and Egypt of Mubarak)

A rifle and a “kafane” (shroud)

“Nobody will defeat me; I will not subdue anyone” said a masked security man.  He fired his gun into air and said “the bullet will zoom in on its enemy”.

The masked man is jobless and on a rampage for his private war:  There is no peace to defend and die for.

The man with the rifle was hungry; he fired one more (rashak) in the air hoping that a clump of grapes from heaven would fall to him.

If peace is an interlude between two wars, the dead should have the right to vote: they would certainly vote for an Army General as leader.

(Most of Israel’s PMs are Army Generals)

If we wanted

We will be a people, if we want, when we realize that we are no angels, that evil is not the specialty of the “others”.

We will become a people when we desist of saying a prayer to the “Sacred Nation”, everytime a poor fellow finds something to eat for supper.

We will become a people when we can curse the Sultan and the valet of the Sultan without retribution;

When we forget what the tribe has ordered; when little details are appreciated and valued.

We can be a people when the police protect whores being beaten on the streets; when mixed marriage is a civil law.

We will be a people when we respect the just, the right, and the error, and the wrong.

The law of fear

The killer looks at the ghost of the murdered, not in his eyes, without remorse.  He tells the mobs “Do not blame me: I was just scared

A few interpreted the sentence as the right to kill in self-defense.  A few shared their opinions saying “Justice is the overflow of the generosity of power”. 

Others said “Wouldn’t this murdered individual have a name in other nations?”

The mob paid their condolence to the killer but when a foreigner wondered “But what is the reason for killing a baby?”

The mob replied “Because one day this baby will grow up and then we will fear him”

But why kill the mother?  The mob said “Because she will raise a memory“.

The mob shouted in unison “Fear and not justice is the foundation for authority

Over my heart I walked (The poet had serious heart ailment)

As if my heart is a road, a street pavement, or air;

I walked over my heart.

My heart said to me: “Your question is tiring me; where to go when there is no land, no sky, and you always obey me”

I replied “Revolt against me, run, run; there is nothing behind us but the past“.

Cultural boycott of Israel institutions disseminating misleading propaganda positions

On Monday, CounterPunch ran an article by Omar Robert Hamilton that responded to JK Rowling’s joint letter to defend Israel.

This was one amongst many responses to her letter. JK Rowling responded, and Omar responded to her. We run both below.

JK Rowling Responds:

I’ve had a number of readers asking for more information about why I am not joining a cultural boycott of Israel, so here it is:

As the Guardian letter I co-signed states, the signatories hold different views on the actions of the current Israeli administration.

Speaking purely for myself, I have deplored most of Mr Netanyahu’s actions in office. However, I do not believe that a cultural boycott will force Mr Netanyahu from power, nor have I ever heard of a cultural boycott ending a bloody and prolonged conflict.

If any effects are felt from the proposed boycott, it will be by ordinary Israelis, many of whom did not vote for Mr Netanyahu.

Those Israelis will be right to ask why cultural boycotts are not also being proposed against – to take random examples – North Korea and Zimbabwe, whose leaders are not generally considered paragons by the international community.

The sharing of art and literature across borders constitutes an immense power for good in this world.

The true human cost of the Palestinian conflict was seared upon my consciousness, as upon many others’, by the heart-splitting poetry of Mahmoud Darwish.

In its highest incarnation, as exemplified by Darwish, art civilises, challenges and reminds us of our common humanity.

At a time when the stigmatisation of religions and ethnicities seems to be on the rise, I believe strongly that cultural dialogue and collaboration is more important than ever before and that cultural boycotts are divisive, discriminatory and counter-productive.

Omar Robert Hamilton Responds:

Dear Ms Rowling,

I don’t know if you read my response in Counterpunch to your signing the Cultures of CoExistence letter.

I hope you will take the two minutes it asks of you. You’ve since expanded on your position and so, although I may be speaking to an empty room here, I feel I should step in again.

Firstly, the cultural boycott is not designed to force Mr Netanyahu from power.

If it were not Mr Netanyahu in power it would have been Mr. Herzog and his track record leaves us no reason to hope he would be the kind of visionary leader needed to bring a just resolution to the great injustices that Zionism has wrought upon Palestine.

The cultural boycott is designed to isolate institutions that are directly collaborating with the Israeli government in the on-going occupation and colonization of Palestine.

The cultural, economic and political boycott is designed to bring justice for the Palestinian people.

It is misrepresentative to suggest that BDS is a blunt instrument that blindly targets people based on their ethnicity. That’s what Israel does.

BDS, on the other hand, is a carefully considered campaign based on ethical principles.

It does not target individuals, it does not target people for their beliefs; it targets institutions that profit from death and their brand ambassadors, it targets people who, by accepting money, make themselves complicit with the Israeli state.

Let’s take two examples.

Gal Gadot is an Israeli actress soon to be an international star for playing Wonder Woman.

She served in the Israeli Army and has no problem acting as a representative of her country. However, as no Israeli state institutions contributed to the financing of her films, she is not someone that would be targeted by BDS.

Idan Raichel, on the other hand, has hosted gala fundraisers for the Israeli Army and provided morale boosting entertainment for soldiers on active duty in the most recent assault on Gaza.

In his own words, Raichel said “I believe that our role as artists is to be engaged in the Israeli propaganda campaign [Hasbara].”

Mr Raichel is the kind of artist that BDS targets.

It is laid out very clearly on the website for the Palestinain Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

BDS targets artists, companies and institutions that are in the service of the state and its policy of ethnic cleansing.

You ask why we don’t boycott North Korea?

This is a question often asked by Israeli apologists and the answer is simple: North Korea has no international cultural propaganda programme to boycott. How many state-sponsored celebrations of North Korean culture are happening this year?

How many North Korean lobbyists are at work in Washington DC? How many popstars have had to rescind tweets against North Korea? The answer is zero.

BDS does not stop the sharing of art or of literature across borders.

BDS stops government-sponsored propaganda from masquerading unchallenged as art.

BDS demands that art be art and that artists speak for themselves and not be mouthpieces of an apartheid regime.

Real cultural dialogue between individuals or institutions not affiliated with the state is of no interest to this campaign.

What BDS targets is state-sponsored smokescreening designed to buy Israel more time to conquer more land.

As a signatory to BDS there would be no preventing you from talking and working with as many ‘ordinary Israelis’ as you like.

In fact, it would guarantee that this sector about whom you are so concerned is identified.

Israelis resistant to their state’s policies of ethnic cleansing and apartheid are welcomed with open arms.

But those that profit from it: they are the ones that we are no longer interested in dialogue with.

I believe that if you consider this carefully you will find that it is actually BDS, and not the Cultures of Co-Existence Clan, that is in line with your stated principles.

 A few of the Most Beautiful Writings from and for Gaza

Mahmoud Darwish once wrote of Gaza,
We are unfair to her when we search for her poems.”
We are certainly unfair when we scrabble anywhere for poems, searching for aesthetic pleasure in others’ suffering. But here, poetry seems to have welled up from the need to speak, to create, to defy silence: Zuabi speaking at an Edinburgh cultural summit.

Most of the Arabic writing about Gaza that came out of the last month was first-person reportage on events.

But some of it mixed together with other elements to create otherworldly or impassioned prose.

The piece that most stunned me in the last month was not by a Gazan, but by Jerusalem-based playwright Amir Nizar Zuabi. His The underground ghetto city of Gaza ran in Haaretz on August 4. 

Zuabi has said elsewhere that he would prefer people to see “dreamlike poetry in his work rather than political drama”; it’s hard to imagine how they would miss it:

“And we start to hope that if we keep on digging, all the way to the core, if we don’t stop, if we perforate the land like a honeycomb, if we make it as flimsy as silk, maybe it will suddenly collapse in on itself.

And then, like a tray piled with cups of coffee and cookies that crashes to the floor in a mess of crumbs and glass, it will all mix together.

The upper part and the lower part will blend. And the rules will change. And we’ll be able to say with a sigh of relief:

Here is a piece of sky mixed with a cracked piece of sea; here is Shujaiyeh mixed with Sderot.

Here is Zeitoun mixed with the Mount of Olives.

Here is compassion mixed with relief; here is one human being mixed with another. And we’ll know that we were saved from the living death in which we are trapped, and now we’ll join the life of above, and with them build a new land. [Read the whole piece.]

Atef Abu Sayf, a novelist and the editor of The Book of Gaza, a short-story collection published this year by Comma Press, wrote a number of pieces. Perhaps the first was “I Do Not Want to Be a Number,” which ran in Slate (translator not named):

“I do not want to be a number, to be a piece in the news, a name mentioned by a beautiful TV anchor waiting impatiently to finish reading news from Gaza.

I do not want to be a small number in a large one, a part of the data.

I do not want to be an image among thousands of images that the activists and sympathizers share on Twitter or post on Facebook, rained down on with likes and comments. [Read the whole piece.]

Abu Sayf also had “Eight Days in Gaza: A Wartime Diary” in the New York Times (translator not named):

“My wife, Hanna, is arguing with the kids over what to buy to celebrate Eid, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan. She has forbidden them to go to the grocery store, and she’s adamant that they won’t visit the Internet cafes or the PlayStation shop near my father’s place. They don’t understand the impossibility of shopping at a time of war. [Read the whole piece.]

Photo of coffee in Gaza from

Gaza-based writer Hedaya Shamun shared several pieces of hers with ArabLit. After the 13th day of Operation Protective Edge, she shared “The Taste of Coffee in Gaza,” trans. Shaimaa Debees:

“War changes the taste of coffee. Sweets are no longer as they were before, and no one wants to touch them once the kids have gone.

A bitter taste settles into our eyes and into our hearts. Today is the thirteenth day of the war — of the sudden death.

Every day we greet, leave, and call each other, attempting to support each other, but time gets us! We all feel those terrible shells that are so close to our heads. [Read the whole piece.]

Poet Nathalie Handal, who is from Bethlehem, published two sets of poetry in the last month: Confessions at Midrange: The Voices and Faces of Palestine – Summer, 2014 and Three Poems for Gaza on World Literature Today.

From “Gaza“:

Once in a tiny strip
dark holes swallowed hearts
and one child told another
withdraw your breath
whenever the night wind
is no longer a land of dreams

And “Confessions at Midrange“:

My heart has telescopes

my eyes have invisible streets

my portrait is of a nation

with a hundred square feet of clouds—

maybe god is a country

my eyes can’t see.

gazaGazan author Refaat Al-Areer was editor of the 2013 collection Gaza Writes Backa reaction to the Cast Lead invasion of 2008-2009.

During Protective Edge, Al-Areer lost his brother Mohammed. In The Electronic Intifada, Al-Areer crafted a portrait of his relationship with his younger sibling:

“When I heard they wanted to name my new brother Mohammed, I started crying and shouting, “I don’t want you to name him Mohammed. I want you to name him Hamada! I want Hamada!”

I used to scream my lungs out every time someone called him Mohammed until no one dared do so. He was then known to all as Hamada (which is a pet name for Mohammed). Everyone called him Hamada except, to my disappointment, my dad, who always used his official name, Mohammed.

Ever since, I felt a very strong connection towards Hamada. It was like he was my son, like I owned him, like I had to take care of him and to make sure his name remained Hamada. [Read the whole piece.]

Another Jerusalem-based writer, Amani Rohana, writes “A Story from a Bus in Jerusalem.

Like Al-Areer’s story, Rohana’s is part of Israeli-American poet Moriel Rothman-Zecher‘s list of 39 recommended readings about Israel’s latest attack on Gaza.

From Rohana’s “Bus”:

“Lately, I am just tired of having conversations about anything. Every once in a while, when I find the strength to leave my university dorms in the French Hill, I am advised by my concerned mother not to speak in Arabic in public.

Given the limited resources provided to challenge that fear, I choose not to speak at all. Sometimes, however, you are forced into a conversation, and by that, you are forced to choose between your own conversation and that of others, knowing that either way, you are going to have to bear unbearable consequences, which would include, in the best case, longer, more dreadful conversations. [Read the whole piece.]


More writing from the Book of Gaza authors can be found at the Comma Press blog.

From Israeli novelist Etgar Keret: “Israel’s Other War

From Palestinian-Israeli novelist Sayed Kashua: “Why I Have To Leave Israel”




May 2020

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