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This report is taken from PN Review 259, Volume 47 Number 5, May - June 2021.

On Mourid Barghouti
Mourid Barghouti Remembered
Sharif Elmusa
Mourid Barghouti, one of the major Palestinian and Arab poets of his generation, an inimitable memoirist and public cultural figure, was born in 1944 in the mountainous village of Deir Ghassaneh in Palestine (which rendered him ‘four years older than the State of Israel’, he half-jested). He died on 14 February 2021, at the family home in Amman, Jordan, from cancer.

Barghouti wrote fourteen volumes of poetry. Midnight, his only poetry collection in English, with a substantial Introduction by Guy Mannes-Abbott, was translated by his Egyptian wife, Radwa Ashour, a novelist, who also taught English literature at Ain Shams University, Cairo, until she died in 2014. The couple had met while students at Cairo University. Their only child, Tamim, is today an accomplished poet, and father and son would read together in packed halls. In all, quite an illustrious trio.

The eponymous poem ‘Midnight’ is a long meditation that summons a cascade of ghosts, interior monologues, images of landscape and violence and domesticity, and quotes and paraphrases in a controlled narration by first- and second-person pronouns. A kind of solstice poem, it takes place at a point of inflection in time, when the sun is farthest, yet the earth is spinning us closer to our source of light – a long passage from pain to joy. One narrator, worn out by checkpoints and memorials, utters the Shakespearean: ‘Age zero. / Life: tomorrow / and tomorrow and tomorrow!’.

His autobiography, I Saw Ramallah, received the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature. It is an account of his ...

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