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This report is taken from PN Review 248, Volume 45 Number 6, July - August 2019.

Fawzi Karim
The Script of Storms
Reflections on Fawzi Karim
Michael Hersch
I place my forehead on the plate glass-front
And peered in at the darkness…
And there was nothing there for me to look for.
… see some corpses floating down…
Be frightened, brother. I am.


Over the past several years I have worked closely with the words of Fawzi Karim, having set them in a cycle for voice and orchestra. Karim’s world is a remarkable and disquieting place; a landscape of empathy, beauty and often unspeakable horror.

During the recent past, this extraordinary figure had become an ever-more important part of my life.  He was both a friend and a tremendous inspiration. His best work has a concision which goes to the heart of any matter, often uncomfortable to many. The work is without excess or a heavy hand, without surface-level regret or sentimentality. Karim was clear-eyed about the world in which he lived, and he did not shy away from its challenges and troubles. But precisely as a result of that clarity, he yearned for and held onto the good in others, when and wherever he found it. When I think of Karim, the words of the American sculptor Christopher Cairns come to mind. Cairns once said while discussing his own work that, amongst other motivations, he attempts to convey ‘love… the love of humankind, even in its catastrophic relationship to where it is going.’ Or, in Karim’s case, where humankind had been as well.

I met Karim for the first time at the home of poet and writer Marius Kociejowski. ...


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