Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Mahmoud Darwish

…de la Electronic Intifada:

At a time when many feel that the Palestinian cause is dying, the death of the poet Mahmoud Darwish following open-heart surgery acquires added poignancy.

Variously described as "the Palestinian national poet" or "the Arab poet laureate, Darwish was 67, exactly the same age as his friend Edward Said when he died five years ago. Both men were seen as embodying the aspirations of their people, both served on the Palestinian National Council, and both resigned in protest against the Oslo Accords which, as they rightly anticipated, sold out Palestinian rights for no tangible result….

…It was in Paris -- over coffee! -- that I met him in the spring of 2003, an encounter arranged by his old friend the historian Elias Sanbar (now Palestinian ambassador to UNESCO). I secured his autograph on my copy of the French edition of his selected poems, as translated by Sanbar, and invited him to visit Ireland at his earliest convenience as a guest of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign. He expressed his enthusiasm for the idea, and wondered whether he would be able to meet Seamus Heaney. He asked me about the Irish language, and seemed genuinely shocked when I told him that only around one percent of Irish people spoke it as their first language. "You cannot have a national identity without a living language," he exclaimed. He was a little nonplussed by my lack of enthusiasm for the Celtic tiger, and I got the impression that his view of Ireland was colored by Edward Said, who saw the country through rose-tinted post-colonial glasses…

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