Saturday, November 5, 2011

New book by Palestinian poet and writer Mourid Barghouti

Reading this review from the UK Independent of  the new book by Palestinian poet and writer  Mourid Barghouti titled  I Was Born Here. The book has a  introduction by one of my favourite writers John Berger.

The review in the Independent describes the book this way:
"I Was Born... is that collection of "questions", voiced in the place and beyond, from many angles of vision or time and delivered in Barghouti's inimitable style. John Berger's introduction speaks of what happened and continues to happen in Palestine as "unclassifiable" - a term that also fits both volumes. Here Barghouti resumes in the late 1990s, flitting across the subsequent decade, delivering characteristic mini-essays, deep family memories, accounts of employment in Ramallah, visits with Tamim to Jerusalem and Deir Ghassanah, alongside crystalised visions of horror and happiness.

"Essays" focus on Jerusalem and Iraq, on coffee and the loss of Palestine: they rival Mahmoud Darwish's work on the subjects. They also cover Arafat and fatherhood, corruption and "the wall of the Silent Transfer", as well as celebrating anecdotal histories. More personal than his first volume, freighted with individual and collective return, here are the minutiae of the immediate consequences. It's an honest confrontation with Israeli violence and impunity, an unflinching description of the Palestinian Authority's compromising failures, and a plea for joy"
John Berger's Introduction to the book is here:
Come Closer  
Introduction by John Berger
This book, with its fury and tenderness, its close observation and cosmic metaphors, is wild. Reading it, you follow graphically the experience of the Palestinian people during the last sixty years, and, at the same time, you partake of some of the most ancient recourses of the human imagination when faced with collective suffering and humiliation.

It has been written by the distinguished poet Mourid Barghouti, who is also the father of an honoured poet, Tamim Barghouti. It’s a book that begs for an answer to the question: why write poetry? And, in begging, it gives its own lacerating, literal and sometimes lyrical answer.

I’ve read no other book in which poetry is so interleaved with the problems and shit (such as identity cards) of daily life, or in which a working poet—either the father or son—is felt to be so close to those for whom their poetry speaks. It comes from the heart of an endless tragedy where jokes are one of the principal means of survival. It redefines in such conditions what is “normal”.

It’s also fine to die in our beds
on a clean pillow
and among our friends.

It’s fine to die, once,
our hands crossed on our chests
empty and pale
with no scratches, no chains, no banners,
no petitions.

It’s fine to have an undusty death,
no holes in our shirts,
and no evidence in our ribs.

It’s fine to die
with a white pillow, not the pavement, under our cheeks....

What has happened and is happening to the land of Palestine and its people is unclassifiable. None of the historical terms such as colonization, annexation, invasion or elimination are precise enough. The word ‘Occupation’, which is generally used, has been given a new vast meaning and this book spells out that meaning and the extension of what it means.

Perhaps it is for this reason that the book itself is unclassifiable. It’s a book of heartrending stories, a book about poetics, a personal memoir, the history of a family, a journal of confessions, an uncompromising political tract attacking the state of Israel, the corruption of the so-called Palestinian Authority, and the self-serving dictatorships of the surrounding Arab countries. It is also a book of love—love for all those who, although powerless, somehow continue to live with dignity. With courage, too. Yet dignity offers not only an example, but also a shelter. These pages demonstrate how it does so.

The reader is brought face to face (like people come close together in a very small shelter) with what is happening in Palestine today (every day), which is inseparable from what happened yesterday and what people fear will happen tomorrow. The media never refer to what you discover here. Place names such as Jenin, al-Khalil, Rafah, Hebron and Qalandya become dense with experience.

This, however, is only part of what the book offers. There is something else. Mourid Barghouti’s form of narrative insists that lived moments when they are momentous contain something that can be considered eternal, and that such moments, however brief and trivial they may appear to a third eye, join together and form a necklace called a lifetime. Living as we do in a consumerist culture, which recognizes only the latest and the instantaneous, we badly need this reminder. Thank you, Mourid.

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