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This article is taken from PN Review 216, Volume 40 Number 4, March - April 2014.

The Goat that Stood upon the Bull’s Spine Zahed Tajeddin, Sculptor Marius Kociejowski
The blind mediaeval poet Abul ‘Ala al-Ma‘arri (973–1058), who lived in the village of Maarrat al-Nu’man, a few miles southwest of Aleppo, wrote: ‘Take care where you walk because you walk upon the dead.’ So inclusive have those words become we forget sometimes that he was writing on the death of a close relative. The Syrian dead are everywhere. They have been piling up for centuries. As of late there’s been a fresh surge of bodies. Al-Ma‘arri also wrote: ‘The inhabitants of the earth are of two sorts – those with brains but no religion, and those with religion but no brains.’ The sightless head that housed the unruly tongue was removed, although, luckily for its owner, not until 11 February 2013, when jihadists opposed to the regime decapitated the statue of him that stood in the front of the museum dedicated to his memory. It is probable that they were ‘outsiders’ and, in any event, ignorant of his blasphemous verses. ‘And, beauty dead,’ Shakespeare writes, ‘black chaos comes again.’ Chaos is everywhere. The maps are in shreds, unreadable. There are those who claim it was actually the regime which vandalised the statue in order to discredit the opposition. This I doubt. There is no end to the twists and turns of Arabic opinion: what enters the bazaar as one thing leaves it as quite another. Syria is no exception to the rule although it is, or was, a most exceptional place.   

The beloved scene of my earlier adventures has become rubble.


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