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Fiction by Norwegian Women

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mahmoud Darwish; The Illuminator

My daughter is now a huge fan of graphic novels. She especially appreciates how this genre can convey weighty topics and current events in a way that is engaging, even for a teenager. She’s completely enraptured by the persona, writing style, graphics and honesty of Marjane Satrapi and her Persepolis series. Iran is now on her radar and she can fluently pronounce its president’s name. Reading Art Spiegelman’s Maus made my daughter face many things, including the motivation for the State of Israel, which is now on her radar.

Before leaving for a summer program, she had started another graphic novel called Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco. She wants to understand the Palestinians. Reading Footnotes in Gaza ,at first, proved a little daunting and at her grandfather’s suggestion she took another path to this understanding; she read the poetry of one of Palestine’s sons- Mahmoud Darwish. I discovered him as well. My daughter feels she is ready to return to Footnotes in Gaza armed with a lot of poetic insight.

Even though August will mark the second anniversary of his death, his poetry continues to illuminate the path to understanding. *Photo by Michael Nye of a Palestinian girl holding her own poem.
http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/1062

Here is Mahmoud Darwish’s poem-The Prison Cell.

The Prison Cell

It is possible...
It is possible at least sometimes...
It is possible especially now
To ride a horse
Inside a prison cell
And run away...

It is possible for prison walls
To disappear,
For the cell to become a distant land
Without frontiers:

What did you do with the walls?
I gave them back to the rocks.
And what did you do with the ceiling?
I turned it into a saddle.
And your chain?
I turned it into a pencil.

The prison guard got angry.
He put an end to the dialogue.
He said he didn't care for poetry,
And bolted the door of my cell.

He came back to see me
In the morning.
He shouted at me:

Where did all this water come from?
I brought it from the Nile.
And the trees?
From the orchards of Damascus.
And the music?
From my heartbeat.

The prison guard got mad.
He put an end to my dialogue.
He said he didn't like my poetry,
And bolted the door of my cell.

But he returned in the evening:

Where did this moon come from?
From the nights of Baghdad.
And the wine?
From the vineyards of Algiers.
And this freedom?
From the chain you tied me with last night.

The prison guard grew so sad...
He begged me to give him back
His freedom.

— Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008)

Translated by Ben Bennani

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