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This review is taken from PN Review 191, Volume 36 Number 3, January - February 2010.

NEITHER A PROFESSION NOR A SLOGAN MAHMOUD DARWISH, A River Dies of Thirst, translated by Catherine Cobham (Archipelago Books)
MAHMOUD DARWISH, If I Were Another, translated by Fady Joudah (FSG)
MAHMOUD DARWISH, Mural, translated by John Berger and Rema Hammami (Verso)

In Jean-Luc Godard’s Notre Musique, a journalist from Tel Aviv exclaims, ‘You speak like a Jew!’ ‘I hope so,’ Darwish replies, ‘…truth has two faces…we’ve listened to Greek mythology and heard the Trojan victim speak through the mouth of the Greek Euripides. As for me, I’m looking for the poet of Troy, because Troy didn’t tell its story.’ Similarly, translators can’t claim to be telling their own story. They’re more like Euripides than a Trojan. Deprived of roots and left with little but language, Darwish both created and resided in mythologies. Like the majority of cosmopolitan poets, he spent his life doing the dance of Antaeus. Like Antaeus, he could only keep strong by maintaining a link to his mother - Palestine, the homeland, which his highest-profile successor, Mourid Barghouti, called ‘an idea’. A River Dies of Thirst: Journals, published in Beirut just after Darwish’s death last year in August, continues that dance. Primarily a collection of prose poems, the Journals were penned with the burden of the public poet’s crown firmly on his head, and at times, the dialogues between the lyric ‘I’ and its stranger, the other, are set in quite dismal scenes:

Sunday in its usual place on the calendar, and the abandoned well and the rusty bucket. But I will be neither in my room nor in the garden. This is what the text demands: someone has to be absent to lighten the burden of the place.

Poetry born ...


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