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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

John Berger on Mahmoud Darwish

John Berger has been perhaps the most vocal advocate and generous reader of Mahmoud Darwish's poetry in the English-speaking world, bringing into being (with translator Fady Joudah and publisher Neil Astley) the major collected works, The Butterfly's Burden. He has written many essays on the interconnection of place and poetry in Palestinian literature -- the most recent being the resonantly-titled "A Place Weeping," in this months Threepenny Review. In the essay, he describes a visit to Darwish's grave in the village of Al Rabweh, coining the term 'landswept,' with its double intimation of tears and razing, to speak of the landscape he sees and feels. He ends with an exhortation to travel imaginatively through a continued engagement with Darwish's poetry:
Mahmoud Darwish's grave on the hill of Al Rabweh has now, following decisions made by the Palestinian Authority, been fenced off, and a glass pyramid has been constructed over it. It's no longer possible to squat beside him. His words, however, are audible to our ears and we can repeat them and go on doing so.

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