I don't need a night like this to dream...A little bit of sky for my visits is enoughto see time, lightand familiar,and to sleep...
On the occasion of the death of the prince of talk.
Walking Tree Photography, Wildebeast1, and 12 other people added this photo to their favorites.
Polish Sausage Queen
65 months ago | reply
oh the glory!
65 months ago | reply
What a great tribute, your chosen theme seems very fitting
64 months ago | reply
Fantastic shot! Thanks for sharing it!
64 months ago | reply
The Poet is dead: Elias Khoury remembers his friend Mahmoud Darwish.The NationalAugust 29. 2008
In our final phone conversation, Mahmoud Darwish asked my opinion of his last poem, The Dice Player, and I said to him – it was my habit to tease him this way – that he had started writing the way the poets do, and I referred to the great Abbasid poet Abul Alaa al Maarri. In his literary criticism Maarri refers to all the poets by name – until he comes to his contemporary Abu at Tayyib al Mutanabbi, the greatest of all Arab poets, whom he simply calls The Poet, always including the definite article. I could hear Darwish’s laugh coming all the way from America.
When I asked him about the surgery he was about to undergo, he told me the doctor had assured him the risk of death did not exceed one per cent.
Did The Poet believe his doctor, or did he walk to his death rather than wait for it?
No one possesses the answer to this question, for the Poet had the innocence of children, which conceals their slyness. He did not divulge his last secret to anyone. He told his friends that he could no longer bear the time bomb in his chest; this is why he decided to have the operation, despite the advice of the French doctor who, in 1998, performed an equally risky heart surgery on The Poet, a near-death experience that led to a great poem, Mural.
For a decade Darwish lived “in the presence of absence”. He was helpless against his impaired artery, writing his most beautiful collections and verses in preparation for death.
“What will we write when you’re dead?” I asked him. And he told me a story about the assassination of Ghassan Kanafani.
Darwish recalled that he was taken by surprise when the Palestinian poet Kamal Nasser walked angrily into his office at the Palestinian Research Centre in 1972, holding the obituary The Poet had written for Kanafani. Nasser threw the article on the desk and demanded, gently, “What will you write about my death, now that you’ve written everything in this article?”
Less than a year later, when Nasser too was assassinated by Israel, Darwish wrote the poem Palestinian Wedding, in which:Never will lover reach loverExcept as martyr or fugitive.******************
The challenge for Darwish was the same as that posed in the muallaqat, which asked: “Have the poets let go of the clichés?” As if the Arab poet stood amazed before the muse who dictated new language to him at a point when his predecessors had already said everything. But Darwish did not just rely on this inspiration, his marvellous poetic intuition, the softness of lemon flowers in the music of his poetry and the water that attenuated his words, but added to these his conscious ability to sum up modern Arabic poetry in its entirety, before setting sail to travel to all poetry, from the ancient Greeks to Neruda.
He had something of al Mutanabbi, who summarised the poetry of his time. But the difference between the modern Poet and the ancient Poet is that Darwish rejected power when it was offered him, while his predecessor exhausted his entire life searching for its mirage. Darwish was the beginning of the poetry that creates the homeland despite his estrangement from it, while al Mutanabbi remained lost in the promises of words.
Darwish did not find the land that he created with his words before it could become tangible reality. He remained in Palestine; he returned without truly returning, a stranger in his own country even though in it he was the master of the word. He was – to borrow the title that al Khalil ibn Ahmad, who codified the metre of Arabic poetry, gave to poets – the prince of talk. But Darwish remained a stranger, because Palestine could no longer know itself.
Two people created the Palestinian language. The first was a novelist from Acre, who became a refugee in Syria and then Lebanon, where his body was fragmented in Hazimiye, not far from Beirut.
The second was a poet from al Birwa, near Acre, who took refuge in Lebanon in 1948, only to sneak back into Galilee after his family spent a year in the snows of Jizzin.
The novelist, Kanafani, returned to Haifa only in his fiction, while Darwish returned, but only to part of his homeland. Kanafani founded the Palestinian story in language, but Darwish crystallised it into a lyrical epic. The process was not complete, however, until Edward Said added his luminous thought and encyclopaedic intellect and Emile Habibi flavoured it with black sarcasm in works like The Pessoptimist.
Both of the creators were blown up: Kanafani was killed by the Israelis, and Darwish exploded from within.******************
Perhaps it is best to begin the story in Beirut, where Mahmoud arrived two years ago, bearing the X-rays that showed his aorta swollen to the point of bursting. We went to see doctors at both Hotel Dieu and the American University Hospital – whose opinions were identical: the surgery posed an insurmountable risk in light of the prior operation, eight years earlier, which had almost killed The Poet.
Next we went to Paris, for an appointment with the doctor who had performed the first surgery. His assessment was that the artery had not yet reached the point at which it could explode, and he reassured us without concealing the risk that beckoned on the horizon. That day we celebrated with fish at La Coupole. The sea bass arrived grilled, and we poured olive oil on top of it, drank French white wine and celebrated safety.
But death remained latent, and it reared its head again at the start of this summer. The Poet went to Paris in July, and he laughed when he told me that the doctor said Charles de Gaulle had the same illness, and that the late president preferred to wait for death, refusing to have the operation. “The family of Darwish has the same hereditary diseases as the de Gaulles,” The Poet joked with his doctor. But after a little hesitation he decided to go to Houston to have the risky surgery performed.
I suggested to him the possibility that he might not win this round. But he did not answer. I saw in the shadow of his grey-green eyes the bewilderment of not knowing the answer to a question which, should he lose, he would not be able to hear.
I once asked him about the colour of his eyes, on a day when we had gone with two friends to Jizzin, the town he had come to as a child in 1948, after his village, al Birwa, had fallen twice to the Israelis. He was looking for “the memories of memory”, and we walked through the alleyways but did not find our way to the house where the family had lived. While we were looking he turned to me and said, “Leave out the memories. Raw kibbeh is better.” And we went to a restaurant overlooking a deep valley, ate the kibbeh, drank local arak and listened to stories of Galilean raw kibbeh made by Houriye, The Poet’s mother. The “memories of memory” returned – to recount tales of the Palestinian village, whose houses the Israelis wiped off the face of the earth and replaced with a kibbutz for Yemenite Jews, tales of the family that snuck back to live in the village of al Jdaidah. And when I asked him about al Birwa falling twice, he said he could not remember: the Nakba, he said, appeared to him as a childhood nightmare whose features remained vague.
On June 11, 1948, the Carmeli brigade raided the village and ejected its inhabitants, who took refuge in the neighbouring fields. The people of al Birwa decided to go back to harvest their produce, and so they returned with canes and hoes and what arms they could muster on June 22. They handed the village over to the Arab Rescue Army, who in turn retreated before the Israeli army in July.
But of the details of the story, all that remained was the brutal reality that made The Poet scream, “And I flow as blood, and as memory I flow.”
This coupling – that turned memory into blood – is what Darwish added to the language of the Palestinian story, just as later he bore the scent of Galilean wheat when he asked those who would see him to the grave to place on his coffin only seven ears of wheat and red anemones:
Death, give me time to arrange my funeral.Give me time in this fleeting new spring.I was born in spring to keep the orators from endlessly speakingabout this heartbreaking country, about the immortalityof fig and olive trees in the face of time and its armies.
I will say: Let me fall into the lap of the letter Nûn.There my soul will be cleansed by Surat ‘Al-Rahman.Then walk with me in my ancestors’ footsteps,attuned to the flute’s notes echoing through my timeless time.Violet is the flower of frustration.It reminds the dead of love’s untimely death.So don’t lay violets on my grave.Seven ears of wheat and a few red anemonesare enough if they are available.
I will not ask the orators why they did not respect his will, for when we betray the dead, betrayal reaches perfection.
This coupling of memory and blood, as Darwish expressed it, is no mere simile – his language returns us to the event, to the tragedy that made it so – and this is the Palestinian tragedy, the tragedy of al Birwa, of the hundreds of eradicated villages.
I did not ask Darwish if he had stolen the wheat from his land, from which he was cast out; The Poet was not a novelist, telling stories; instead he distilled the world into his own language.
Poetry possesses a singular ruse: unlike the novel, poetry need not narrate in time, so much so that a poet can write an elegy for his own death. This is what the early Ummayyid poet Malik ibnur Raib taught us when he wrote:
I counted who would weep for me and foundNone but the sword and Radim javelin weeping.They cry, ‘Do not depart!’ as I am cast agroundDeparture being my last place of sleeping.
Poetry surpasses the novel because, while both can tell a story from any one of many beginnings, the poem can choose them all. The poet can speak from after his own death, from the unknown, resuming the story even after it has ended. The prophetic voice that poetry possesses is the root of the divorce between literature and religion in classical Arabic culture – but this is an idea that requires its own thesis.
Mahmoud Darwish recounted his beginnings with extreme brevity, but when he wrote them in verse, he did so with the ambiguity that befits poetry, and conducted a dialogue between the man and the child:
Become a child again,teach me poetry,and teach me the rhythm of the sea,bring back to words their first innocence.Give birth to me out of a grain of wheat, not out of a wound, give birth to me,and take me back, so I can embrace you on the grass, to what is before the meaning.Do you hear me? Before the meaning,the tall trees walked with us and they were trees, not meaning.And the high moon crawled with us as a moon,not a silver dish of meaning.Become a child again,teach me poetry,and teach me the rhythm of the sea,and take my handthat we might cross this isthmus between night and dawn togetherand together learn the first words,and build a secret sparrow nest,our third brother.Become a child, that I might see my face in your mirror.Are you meand I you?Teach me poetry that I might elegise you now now nowas you elegise me.The last ruse of Darwish was to use the dual Arabic voice in order to explore the relation between his beginning and his end, by splitting himself in two. Not in order to weep, as Imru al Qais had done in his muallaqa, but to discover the mystery of the complex relation between death and life.******************
But back to the beginning, two years ago, when The Poet came to Beirut holding the medical file that would take him to Houston. From that moment on, I saw only the child, scared of fate. But his work was not done – he came to Beirut bearing his marvellous book In the Presence of Absence, and hiding The Mark of the Butterfly, which he had not yet published. At the same time he was preparing another new collection, in which The Dice Player was to appear.
His friend Laila Chahide said that in his last meeting with his French doctor, he asked how long the accursed aorta would spare him, saying that all he wanted was time enough to complete his new collection.
Did The Poet think the book was done and go to play a last round with his heart? Who told him that the work was over?
The Poet went to his last battle with Death by choice. He agreed to have a catheterisation, and he entered into the great surgical operation in which 30cm of his aorta was excised and replaced, but he demanded that he should not be kept artificially alive. The memories of his extended anaesthesia in the Parisian operation had left its frightful fingerprints on Mural, where The Poet imagined that he was a prisoner being beaten, and saw the nurses and doctors as wardens and interrogators who were torturing him.
The amazing irony is that all his vital organs had been impaired by cholesterol clots; only the heart continued to beat and function normally. If only the heart could tell! But the heart only tells in the form of poetry, and at the intensive care unit, there is no one to understand the language of poetry or to decipher the rhythm of the heartbeats so that we might know what The Poet thought as he sailed into that black whiteness, like the snow al Mutannabi saw on his sole visit to Lebanon.
Marcel Khalife, who became famous setting Darwish’s words to music, said it best when he said that Darwish’s poems do not require accompaniment because they carry their music with them. This is the metre that Darwish created within the existing poetic tradition; it is the music of the heart, weaving the rules anew to forge new songs of death that do not die.******************
The story has it that the son of al Birwa loved to draw. But the child of those refugees in their own country, who were farmers but became day-labourers, could not afford coloured pencils, so he became a poet. In this story, the 12-year-old poet was called on to recite a verse at school, and wrote a poem about a child who lost his house to strangers who conquered the land. He did not know then that the poem was to be recited in memory of the Nakba, which over there they call independence day. The next day, he was summoned the headquarters of the military governor, where they threatened to ban his father from working. “Then I understood that poetry was more serious than I thought,” he said, “and I had to choose between resuming this game or giving it up. Thus oppression taught me that poetry could be a weapon.”
A second story has it that the young man started writing while coping Arabic texts into his notebook, because books of literature from the Arab world were very rare in his village. Once he and I spent an evening with the great Egyptian writer Youssef Idris. I told Mahmoud that Idris really did look like a writer, with his broad shoulders and his green eyes, and that this was the first time I had met a writer who did not disappoint me, for writers usually did not look like your image of them. Darwish looked at me and asked, “And me, do I look like a poet?” “No,” I said, “you look like a movie star.” That unforgettable evening, Youssef Idris was saying something about the importance of metaphors being precise, and he gave an example from one of his stories: “They resembled each other like raindrops.” Darwish turned to me and whispered a line from his poem Ahmad az Zaatar: “Resemblance is the sands’, and you belong to blue.” Youssef Idris asked me what we were saying, I recited the line, and Idris started to become angry. But The Poet redressed the situation by saying that he used to copy Idris’s stories into his notebooks, and that this was how he learnt to write.
A third story has it that the beginning was the poem Identity Card, and that its scream, “Record! I am an Arab” turned The Poet into a conscience for his people, and a voice of the Palestinian tragedy. The young man moved to Haifa to work, and became the editor in chief of Al Jadid, where he was seen as one of the “sons of Juhainah” – the pen name of Emile Habibi. In his introduction to a book of letters between Darwish and Samih al Qasem, Habibi described both poets as two halves of an orange. And when we went to Prague to interview Habibi for the first issue of Darwish’s literary magazine Al Karmel, I was surprised to see the teacher acting like a student and the student looking back at him with the eyes of the child he had once been. After Identity Card came A Lover from Palestine, where the Palestinian poetic project took the shape of a new language, a means to retrieve the land with words.
A fourth story has it that Darwish became a great poet after leaving the Galilee. He passed through Cairo on his way to Beirut, where he joined the PLO. At the Palestinian Writers Union Conference held in Tunis in 1977, Darwish read out his elegy for Rashed Hussein, What Will Be Has Been. On that day they began to call him the General Poet, just as they called Arafat the General Leader.
A fifth story has it that The Poet was refined by his experience in Beirut, which opened to him new horizons of poetic experimentation, exemplified in his collection Attempt Number 7. Paris and isolation propelled him into the realms of a new poetry, a process that began with his collection Fewer Roses and reached perfection in his lyrical epic Why Have You Left the Horse Alone? Darwish at age 40 discovered a new voice: bringing together the lyrical and the epic – an outstanding poetic vision that turned short, intense poems into movements in an epic narrative of the tragedy he had come to personify.
According to a sixth story, we must return to the character of Rita to understand the beginning. Rita first appeared in his early book The End of Night, but she cast her shadow over all of his poetry, up through his great poem Mural in 2000. Though she may have been inspired by a relationship that connected Darwish with an Israeli poetess whose name he refused to divulge – and I will not divulge it either – Rita would turn into a symbol, but not of the impossibility of love between enemies, as is commonly assumed. Because Rita became a framework in which The Poet would split the self into two.
Darwish devoted a whole collection to love, based on the figure of Rita. The Bed of the Stranger is among the most beautiful love poems, based on his personal experience. Yet The Poet refuses in his elegy, In the Presence of Absence, to recall a single love story, or to make any reference to either of his two marriages, to Rana Qabbani or Hayat Belhini, and instead presents us with ambiguous conclusions about a love that manifests only “in an intensely present absence”. His constant talk of the necessity of running away from women was not truthful. Only poetry reveals his sufferings with love. Because, as the Arabs said, “The truest poetry is that which lies most.”
A seventh story shows Darwish’s dazzling stardom demonstrated in his equivocal relations with power, and particularly with Yasser Arafat. Arafat attended his first wedding, as witness and stand-in for the absent father; their relationship was like a game of two symbols, interspersed with difficult moments. Among the most difficult was the day that Force 17, Arafat’s private guards, surrounded the Palestinian Research Centre in 1979. Darwish resigned and moved to Tunis, and I left as well, to begin my career as a journalist.
Darwish kept a necessary distance from power and politics; he worked to build his symbolic persona even as it wearied him, and he drew close to power though he rejected it. It was a complex game that only Darwish could have mastered. His critique of Oslo, and his resignation from the PLO executive committee, did not prevent him from travelling to South Africa with Arafat, or returning to Ramallah, where he refused the offer to become Minister of Culture.
In an eighth story, we can find the beginning in the surgery The Poet endured in Paris. When I visited him in the French hospital I felt the terror of the end. The Poet slept in his death bed. But I did not realise that he was preparing to start over – that in Mural his relationship with three critical components of his poetry – the dual, the horse, and Death – would emerge with new clarity.
I feared his isolation in Amman, but when I told him so he would reply that he was happy in solitude and mock my concern. Isolation did not scare him, but he did experience fear – I do not refer to his fear of illness or death, but to something I never realised: that he suffered from stage fright before his public readings. Can anyone believe that the master of the podium to whose recitations people filed by the thousands in Beirut and Haifa and Ramallah, in Damascus and Tunis and Casablanca, would feel nauseous and tremble before he went up on stage, as if he was a mere amateur? Mahmoud Darwish approached poetry as if he was writing or reciting for the first time, as if he was discovering the words were being born into his hands new and translucent, and so he feared this mystery no one could fully grasp.
I have tried to search for a beginning from which the narration could begin, and with which life could begin, and I discovered that there are countless possibilities for a beginning. But its greatest possibility is when it mingles with the end, so that the beginning becomes an end, or the threshold of a new beginning. That is why I will not believe that The Poet is dead.******************
When Mahmoud Darwish woke up from his heart surgery in 1998, he asked for a pen and paper: he said he was afraid he had forgotten language. That is why he sighed in Mural:
Who am I? That is the others’ question and there’s no answer for it. I am my language of I,and I am a muaalaqa, two muaalaqas... ten, that is my languageI am my language, I am what the words said:Bemy body, so I was, to their timbre, a body
Darwish’s game was clear, so he did not care about those who accused him of abandoning the poetry of the resistance. Because he did not want his poetry to be a tool. He was a poet only, and a poet is someone who sums up his time, intensifies and departs from and reformulates it. This is the game. That is why I say that The Poet was not part of all the talk and criticism that attempted to contain his poetry; he saw himself as a flute for the poem.
His fault was that he is Palestinian, that the Nakba of his people did not stop for 60 years, and that he is the son of the Arab tragedy in the modern age – which is why he became the poet of the dream and of the land. Darwish’s sole project was to become a poet, and in this context he carried Palestine into poetry – turned it into a great universal metaphor – and he took poetry to Palestine to give it the taste of Galilee olives and the flavour of beauty tattered by crises. That is why he feared the loss of language and not the loss of his body. There at the French hospital, when The Poet was besieged by the effects of the anaesthesia, which drove him into hallucinations, he surprised me with a detailed discussion of literature.
Later I told him, while we drank red wine in Mantova, Italy, that his talk in the hospital reminded me of Abul Alaa al Maari, who in Risalat ul Ghufran enters into a discussion with all the great Arab poets past and future in his journey beyond the world.
For what obsesses poets is poetry, and not all that surrounds it. I know what I am saying is a little arbitrary, because poets and authors do not begin their careers with this obsession. Poets begin in the conditions of their time and their language, but they eventually discover that literature does nor address the living alone, it also addresses the dead, and that they carry inside them the entire history of literature. This happens at the end, in the mature stages which are but another name for the beginning of the last journey to death.
Here the end mingles with the beginning, even becomes the beginning:
As Christ walked on the lake, I walked in my vision.Fearful of heights, I came down from the cross,and did not preach the apocalypse.Poetry begins in the moment of going up on the cross, where the end provides a new interpretation of the beginning, and becomes itself another beginning.
In Mantova, at a symposium on contemporary Arabic literature, Mahmoud Darwish came to present his Mural. And to ameliorate the melancholy tone, I said that in my youth I learnt much of his poetry by heart, for practical reasons, since I used it as a way to seduce girls, and that the method was very successful. I did not say that I still know this poetry by heart for the same reason and for reasons to do with the lives of the protagonists of my own novels, since I cannot imagine my characters Khalil or Mansour without the poetry that enables them to endure life. The hall laughed, before they heard Darwish asking the audience not to believe me, since we are of the same generation.
That day I was visited in a dream by one of my characters, Melia, who said to Mansour: “Tomorrow my darling after some 50 years when a great Poet is born in this land, then you will all know that you will not win the war except by the Word, which is stronger than the weapon.”
The Poet came, Melia, and he died Saturday, August 9. Have they found out what you wanted them to know?******************
Three people died. They summed up, in my life, friendship and love and intelligence, the sweetness of living and the pleasure of culture, knowledge and art.
The first came from Jerusalem, studied in Egypt, and immigrated to America. He was alight with talent and mind and vision. He died of leukaemia in New York, and his name is Edward Said.
The second is from Beirut, but also from Jaffa. He was a historian and a bright journalist, a beloved activist. They killed him in Beirut while he tried to mix Lebanon’s dream with the dreams of Palestine and Syria. His name is Samir Kassir.
The third was born in al Birwa and was a refugee in his own country. He came to Lebanon and founded Al Karmel magazine, and he turned poetry into morning coffee, and dreams a sash for love. He wrote his death before he died in a surgery of the aorta in Houston. He was the prince of talk, and his name is Mahmoud Darwish.
When my friends die, part of me dies. How can I bear the hardship of living to witness this death?
I can only quote from the old poet, Amr bin Maad Yakreb:
Grief strikes dread in my soulNo shoulder stills my tearsThose whom I love are goneA lone sword with no peers.
Elias Khoury is the author of twelve novels, including Gate of the Sun, Yalo, and Little Mountain.
the bonnie blues
63 months ago | reply
beautiful! ; )
63 months ago | reply
In memoriam: Edward Said and Mahmoud DarwishBy Mona AnisAL AHRAM WEEKLY ONLINEOctober 8 2008
It is five years today -- Thursday 25 September -- since the death of the Palestinian public intellectual and political activist Edward Said, "the most brilliantly eloquent emissary of Palestine to the outside world" in the words of an equally eloquent and brilliant fellow compatriot -- Mahmoud Darwish.
The anniversary of Edward Said's death will be commemorated next Tuesday at Columbia University in New York, the city and university where Said lived and taught for the last 40 years of his 68-year-life. Conspicuously absent from the event will be Mahmoud Darwish, who had been invited by Columbia University to give the keynote address. Sadly, his sudden death last month -- at about the same age at which Said died -- prevents him from addressing next Tuesday's gathering in New York.
Darwish, who died on 9 August following open-heart surgery in Houston, was very keen on keeping this appointment, so much so that he had even contemplated postponing surgery until the end of September and after he had delivered the Edward Said Memorial Lecture in New York. "I am going to see what the doctors say in Houston, but I will try to postpone a decision until after my visit to New York in September," he told me over the phone at the beginning of July.
That, alas, turned out to be impossible. Darwish arrived in Houston on 29 July, and it is now clear that what he heard from the consultants there changed his mind regarding postponing the surgery. On 6 August Darwish walked into the operating theatre from where he was never to walk out again. His body was transported to the Palestinian territories a few days after his death, and he was buried in Ramallah on 13 August.
It has long been the habit of Egyptians to commemorate the death of loved ones on the 40th day after their funeral. As I write these words on 23 September, it is 40 days since Mahmoud Darwish was buried; while the anniversary of Edward Said's death on 25 September falls on the scheduled publication date of this column. I can think of no better way to commemorate both memories than to try to illuminate some aspects of the literary and political relationship that bonded the two men together. Naturally, though, any thorough investigation of this immensely complex and rich relationship is beyond the scope of a single column -- perhaps even beyond the scope of any one book.
To begin with the political, obviously Palestine is the overriding structuring element in this relationship, for as has been said, "being born Palestinian is a political act in itself." Both Said and Darwish were born Palestinian, and both were uprooted from their birthplace by the 1948 Palestinian Nakba which resulted in the occupation of Said's West Jerusalem and the razing to the ground of Darwish's village of Birweh in Upper Galilee where an Israeli Moshav was built on its ruins.
Twenty-six years after the Nakba, which both men experienced while very young -- Said was twelve, Darwish, seven -- they met for the first time in New York. In his 2004 poem commemorating the first anniversary of Said's death, Darwish described this first encounter: "There, on the doorstep of an electric abyss,/ high as the sky, I met Edward,/ thirty years ago,/ time was less wild then.../ We both said:/ If the past is only an experience,/ make of the future a meaning and a vision."
The "sky-high electric abyss" mentioned here must be one of New York's skyscrapers, housing the PLO delegation led by Yasser Arafat who addressed the United Nations General Assembly in November 1974. After this event both Said and Darwish told interviewers how they had cooperated with the PLO delegation in the writing of the famous "Olive branch in one hand, and gun in the other" speech delivered by Arafat before the UN. The Arabic text was put into an eloquent style by Darwish, while the English translation was rendered into a text of matching eloquence by Said.
This marked the beginning of a long friendship between the two men and many years of political cooperation under the banner of the PLO. Both men continued in their attempts at giving the future "a meaning and a vision," though, unlike Darwish, who was later to become a member of the PLO's executive council, Said was never completely immersed in PLO politics.
In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon, expelling the PLO from the country, and Darwish, who had been living in Beirut for the previous ten years, had to leave. Six years would elapse before he would find himself again cooperating with Said on the last PLO-inspired document they worked on together, the 1988 Palestinian Declaration of Statehood. This was an experience that signalled the beginning of Said's increasing disenchantment with the PLO leadership, leading to his withdrawal from any association with Arafat by the beginning of the 1990s.
Said wrote about the reasons behind this disenchantment in an article that appeared in The London Review of Books on 8 December 1988, in which he wrote that "Darwish, [Elias] Khoury and I met together for the first time in six years [since the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982] at Algiers the other week, to attend the meetings of the Palestine National Council. Darwish wrote the Declaration of Statehood, which I helped re-draft and translate into English.
"Along with the Declaration, the PNC approved resolutions in favour of two states in historical Palestine, one Arab, one Jewish, whose co-existence would assure self-determination for both peoples. Khoury commented relentlessly, but fondly, as a Lebanese, on what we did, suggesting that perhaps Lebanon might some day be like Palestine. All three of us were present as both participants and observers. We were tremendously moved, of course: yet Darwish and I were worried that our texts were being mutilated by politicians and even more worried that our state was, after all, only an idea."
An idea betrayed by Arafat and his men, Said would often argue in later years. Darwish disaggreed, but political affiliations aside, both Said and Darwish recognised and cherished the immense intellectual and literary achievements of the other, never allowing their diverging political views to detract from the great admiration each held for the other. In an article on Darwish published in the American literary periodical Grand Street in winter 1994, for example, Said insisted that Darwish, who had never completely severed his relations with the leadership of the Palestinian Authority which Said had vehemently attacked, should nevertheless still be considered apart from it.
"His mordant wit," Said wrote, "fierce political independence, and exceptionally refined cultural sensibility kept him at a distance from the frequent coarseness of Palestinian and Arab politics."
In the same article, Said wrote that "poetry for Darwish provides not simply an access of unusual insight or a distant realm of fashioned order, but a harassing amalgam of poetry and collective memory, each pressing on the other. And the paradox deepens almost unbearably as the privacy of a dream is encroached on and even reproduced by a sinister, threatening reality... This strained and deliberately unresolved quality in Darwish's recent poetry makes it an instance of what Adorno called late style, in which the conventional and the ethereal, the historical and the transcendently aesthetic combine to provide an astonishingly concrete sense of going beyond what anyone has ever lived through in reality."
In his introduction to Said's book On Late Style, published posthumously, Michael Wood writes that "I find I can't believe that he [Said] wanted to finish this book. Or rather, he wanted to finish it, but was waiting for a time that would perhaps have never come... Completing the work would have been too much like writing the end of a life."
I can find no better end to this piece than to note the uncanny resemblance between what Wood says here about Said and what Darwish's family and friends found when they went to his flat in Amman for the first time after his death. On his extraordinarily well-organised desk they found a few hand-written papers containing an unfinished poem with a note saying, "I do not want to finish this poem."
It is a great honour, worth noting here by way of a postscript, that the writings of both Darwish and Said appeared on the pages of this newspaper. Both were generous enough to entrust Al-Ahram Weekly with the task of giving voice to their visions of the flawed "Middle East Peace Process," which has plunged the Palestinian people into a nadir of violence and despair that continues to the present day.
Darwish's first overtly political piece to appear in the Weekly was a translation of his letter of resignation from the Executive Committee of the PLO in protest at the Oslo Accords embarked on in summer 1993; while Said's first article -- a forceful denunciation of the Oslo agreement -- appeared in Sepember 1993.
Said continued to contribute regularly to the Weekly for the next ten years, and his many articles are now collected in three books: Peace and its Discontents, The End of the peace Process and From Oslo to Iraq.
Darwish, on the other hand, who seldom wrote articles and was never a regular contributor to any newspaper or magazine, was nevertheless a generous friend of the Weekly, and he always granted the paper copyright of the translations of both his poetry and the occasional columns that appeared in the literary periodical he edited, Al-Karmel, as well as of those that appeared in other Arab papers whenever occasion called for his intervention.
On this anniversary, all of us at the Weekly are deeply saddened by the loss of these two pertinent voices of Palestine, whose writings it was a privilege to host on the pages of the paper. We extend our heart-felt condolences to their families, as well as to the millions of people all over the world who continue to strive to keep alive their lofty and humane visions.
56 months ago | reply
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