Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Mahmoud Darwish (1942 - 2008)

As I promised, I’m writing something about a few important authors who passed away in 2008. The first one is Mahmoud Darwish, a poet who was considered Palestinian national one. I choose to speak about him before any other writer on my list because of the recent events in Gaza. I do not want to discuss international politics with this post, but just remember the suffering of the Palestinian people.

Mahmoud Darwish was born in a village called al-Birwa, in the Western Galilee. Hi mother was illiterate, but his grandfather taught him to read. After the establishment of the state of Israel, he fled to Lebanon with his family, and then settled in Deir al-Asad, now a part of Israel, eventually moving to Haifa. He published his first book of poetry, Asafir bila ajniha, at the age of nineteen. He then studied in Moscow and moved to Egypt and Lebanon. He was allowed to settle in Ramallah in 1995, although he said he felt like being in exile there, because he did not consider the West Bank as his “private homeland”. He published over thirty books of poetry and eight of prose. In March 2000, Yossi Sarid, the Israeli education minister, proposed that two of Darwish's poems be included in the Israeli high school curriculum. Prime Minister Ehud Barak rejected the proposal on the grounds that Israel was "not ready."
He wrote, of course, in Arabic and central to his poetry is the concept of watan, “homeland”. He said about Hebrew poet Yehuda Amichai, a writer whom he greatly admired: “his poetry is a challenge to me, because we write about the same place. He wants to use the landscape and history for his own benefit, based on my destroyed identity. So we have a competition: who is the owner of the language of this land? Who loves it more? Who writes it better?”. His position towards Jewish people is disputed: he denied hating them, but admitted to have no reason to like them. Darwish believed that peace was attainable. "I do not despair," he told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. "I am patient and am waiting for a profound revolution in the consciousness of the Israelis. The Arabs are ready to accept a strong Israel with nuclear arms - all it has to do is open the gates of its fortress and make peace."

This is probably his most famous poem, Bitaqat huwiyya, “Identity Card”:

Identity Card

I am an Arab
And my identity card is number fifty thousand
I have eight children
And the nineth is coming after a summer
Will you be angry?

I am an Arab
Employed with fellow workers at a quarry
I have eight children
I get them bread
Garments and books
from the rocks..
I do not supplicate charity at your doors
Nor do I belittle myself at the footsteps of your chamber
So will you be angry?

I am an Arab
I have a name without a title
Patient in a country
Where people are enraged
My roots
Were entrenched before the birth of time
And before the opening of the eras
Before the pines, and the olive trees
And before the grass grew

My father.. descends from the family of the plow
Not from a privileged class
And my grandfather..was a farmer
Neither well-bred, nor well-born!
Teaches me the pride of the sun
Before teaching me how to read
And my house is like a watchman's hut
Made of branches and cane
Are you satisfied with my status?
I have a name without a title!

I am an Arab
You have stolen the orchards of my ancestors
And the land which I cultivated
Along with my children
And you left nothing for us
Except for these rocks..
So will the State take them
As it has been said?!

Record on the top of the first page:
I do not hate poeple
Nor do I encroach
But if I become hungry
The usurper's flesh will be my food
Of my hunger And my anger!

Qui la poesia in italiano, insieme ad altre che puoi leggere per farti un’idea di questo poeta.


  1. un caro saluto dalla Sicilia.. ti leggo molto spesso anche se non sempre ho il tempo di commentare..complimenti sempre per il tuo lavoro. ciaooooooo

  2. Ciao! Come stai? Passavo per salutarti, sei ritornata in UK?
    Buon 2009!

  3. bonjour; dabord voici mon mail; imenesoctrjdaf@yahoo.fr ; je cherche le poeme Saqata Alqinaa de mahmud darwish et sa traduction vers l'anglais si c'est possible. merci