Love is in the air this month, and what better way to celebrate than highlighting one of Palestine’s most renowned poets and authors, Mahmoud Darwish - who not only romanticised love, but extended those feelings to his homeland and its people.
Darwish was born in 1942 in Al-Birweh, Galilee, a village that was later forcefully exiled by Israeli forces during the Nakba (also known as The Catastrophe) in 1948. In 1949 his family returned to Palestine from a refugee camp in Lebanon as second-class Isreali citizens - this classification was intentional in the erasure of Palestinian Identity. He spent the later years of his life in refuge, living in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, and America. His prolific writing was the “voice of Palestinian Diaspora, he is the voice of the fragmented soul” Carolyn Forché and Runir Akash noted in their introduction to Unfortunately It Was Paradise (2003).
Palestine is used throughout his work as a metaphor for the loss of Eden - A paradise that once was. Common themes of birth, resurrection and exile are often summarized by Darwish when reflecting upon his home and what was taken from him. He reveals a pain and yearning shared by many Palestinians forced to flee. Although having left, his love for his land and its people burns passionately through every word. This is why he is known as a Palestinian national poet.
The majority of his poems are written in Arabic, and he is often known as a “saviour” of the language as his work has been translated and spread continentally. His writing is metaphorical, nuanced and has even been called “prophetic” in the accuracy of its representation. Unfortunately, translations fail to convey the exact sentiment he meticulously crafts in his native tongue, but despite the gaps in translation, any reader of his can detect that Darwish pours himself into his work - the feelings of passion, love and harrowing loss transcend the pages of his books.
Below are translated excerpts exploring themes of love and sacrifice from his books and poetry.
Mahmoud Darwish leaves behind a legacy of triumph over oppression, of love over hatred, and for providing a collective voice for those meant to be silenced.