Archipelago Books has just published a book of linked autobiographical essays — first published in Beirut in 1973 — by the great Palestinian poet Mahmood Darwish, titled Journal of an Ordinary Grief, excellently translated from Arabic by Ibrahim Muhawi. What Edward Said wrote about Darwish’s poetry — that it is “an epic effort to transform the lyrics of loss into the indefinitely postponed drama od return” — is just as true as these genre-defying prose narratives. Check details and buy it here. This is a must read, as I suggest in my blurb for the book:
Consider this book an essential ‘primer for the gradual understanding’ of Palestine and its people. This, Darwish’s first — 1973 — collection of prose essays is one of the most effective, useful and deeply moving witnessing of a historical tragedy I have read. The writing has an unsurpassed freshness, power and awe exactly because it is poetry that happens to have justified margins, or, as Darwish puts it: “In the Arabic sentence there is enough room for a continent of tents.” Remember that the Arab word for ‘tent’ is also the word that means a ‘verse’ or line of poetry. Darwish hungers for understanding why such calamities have befallen his people and has a profound need for sharing — and succeeds brilliantly at both of these. This book should be on the reading list of every school in this country.