Darwish, Mahmoud 1942(?)-

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DARWISH, Mahmoud 1942(?)-

PERSONAL: Name also transliterated as Mahmoud Darweesh and Mahmud Darwish; born March 13, 1942 (one source says 1941), in Birwa, Palestine (now Israel); refugee in Lebanon, 1948-49; son of a farmer and laborer; married Rana Kabbani (marriage ended). Education: Attended Arab secondary schools in Galilee, and school in Moscow. Politics: Palestinian nationalist.

ADDRESSES: Agent—Riad el-Rayyes Books, 56 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7NJ, England.

CAREER: Al-Ittihad ("Unity") daily newspaper and al-Jadid weekly newspaper, Haifa, Israel, journalist and editor, until c. late 1960s; Al-Ahram daily newspaper, Cairo, Egypt, journalist, 1971-72; Center for Palestinian Studies, editor of Shu'un Filastiniyya ("Palestinian Issues") magazine, Beirut, Lebanon, 1972-82; Al-Karmal magazine, editor, beginning 1981. Formerly active in Israeli Communist party; active in Palestinian politics.

MEMBER: Palestine Liberation Organization (member of executive committee, 1987-93).

AWARDS, HONORS: Lotus Prize, Union of Afro-Asian Writers, 1969; Mediterranean Prize, 1980; Lenin Peace Prize, 1983; Knight of Arts and Belles Lettres medal (France), 1997; Lannan Foundation Award for Cultural Freedom, 2001; Sultan bin Ali al Owais Cultural Award for cultural and scientific achievement, 2004.


Asafir bila ajnihah (title means "Sparrows without Wings"), 1960.

Awraq al-zaytun (title means "Olive Branches"), 1964, Dar al-'Awdah (Beirut, Lebanon), 1969.

Ashiq min Filastin (title means "A Lover from Palestine"), 1966.

Akhir al-layl (title means "The End of Night"), Dar al-'Awdah (Beirut, Lebanon), 1967.

Asafir bila anjinhah al-diwan al-awwal, Dar al-'Awdah (Beirut, Lebanon), 1969.

Habibati tanhadu min nawmiha, Dar al-'Awdah (Beirut, Lebanon), 1969.

Yawmiyat jurh Filastini, Dar al-'Awdah (Beirut, Lebanon), 1969.

Ma'a Mamhoud Darwish fi diwanih, Abd al-Rahman, 1969.

A Letter from Exile (selected poems), League of Arab States Mission (New Delhi, India), 1970.

Diwan (selected poems), 1970.

Kitabah ala daw' bunduqiyah, Dar al-'Awdah (Beirut, Lebanon), 1970.

Al-asafir tamut fi al-Jalil (title means "The Sparrows Die in Galilee"), 1970.

Habibati tanhad min nawmiha (title means "My Beloved Wakes Up"), 1971.

Matar na'im fi kharif ba'id, Matba'ah wa-Awfsat al-Hakim (Nasiriyah, Iraq), 1971.

Shay' 'an al-watan (autobiography; title means "Something about Home"), 1971.

Uhibbuki aw la uhibbuk (title means "Love You, Love You Not"), Manshourat Dar al-Adab (Beirut, Lebanon), 1972.

The Palestinian Chalk Circle, Arab Women's Information Committee (Beirut, Lebanon), 1972.

Yawmiyat al-huzn al-'adi (autobiography; title means "Diaries of Ordinary Grief"), Markaz al-Abhath (Beirut, Lebanon), 1973.

Selected Poems, translated by Ian Wedde and Fawwaz Tuqan, Carcanet Press (Manchester, England), 1973.

Wada'an ayyatuha al-harb, wada'an ayyaha al-salam (title means "Farewell War, Farewell Peace"), 1974, Manshurat al-Aswar (Acre, Israel), 1985.

Muhawalah raqm sab'ah (title means "The Seventh Attempt"), 1974.

Splinters of Bone, edited and translated by B. M. Bennani, introduction by Joseph Langland, Greenfield Review Press (Greenfield Center, NY), 1974, bilingual edition translated by Rana Kabbani published as Ahmad al-Za'tar, illustrated by Kalam Boullata, calligraphy by Elias Nico, Manshourat afaq (Beirut, Lebanon), 1977.

Tilk suratuha wa-hadha intihar al-'ashiq (title means "That Is Her Picture and This Is Her Lover's Suicide"), Markaz al-Abhath (Beirut, Lebanon), 1975.

A'ras (title means "Weddings"), Dar al-'Awdah (Beirut, Lebanon), 1977.

Diwan Mahmoud Darwish (selected poems), Dar al-'Awdah (Beirut, Lebanon), 1977.

The Music of Human Flesh, edited and translated by Denys Johnson-Davies, Three Continents Press (Washington, DC), 1980.

Madih al-zill al-'ali, Dar al-'Awdah (Beirut, Lebanon), 1983.

(Contributor) Victims of a Map: A Bilingual Translation of Arabic Poetry, translated by Abdullah al-Udhari, Al-Saqi Books (London, England), 1984.

Hisar li-mada'ih al-bahr (title means "Ban on Panegyrics to the Sea"), Manshourat al-Aswar (Acre, Israel), 1984.

Mukhtarat al-shi'riyah, foreword by Tawfiq Bakkar, illustrated by Rashid al-Qurayshi, Dar al-Janub lil-Nashr (Tunis, Tunisia), 1985.

Sand and Other Poems, edited and translated by Rana Kabbani, KPI (New York, NY), 1986.

Hiya ughniyah, hiya ughniyah (title means "It Is a Song, It Is a Song"), Dar al-Kalimah lil-Nashr (Beirut, Lebanon), 1986.

Ward aqall (poems; title means "Lesser Roses"), Dar Tubqal (al-Dar al-Bayda, Morocco), 1986.

Zakirah lil-nisyan (title means "A Memory of Oblivion"), Al Mu'assasah al-'Arabiyyah lil-Dirasat wa-al-Nashr (Beirut, Lebanon), 1987.

Fi intizar al-barabirah, Wikalat Abou Arafeh (Haifa, Israel), 1987.

Fi wasf halatina: maqalat mukhtarah, 1975-1985, Dar al-Aswar (Acre, Israel), 1987.

(With others) Palestine mon pays: l'affaire du poème, introduction by Simone Bitton, Minuit (Paris, France), 1988.

Dhakirah lil-nisyan: al-zaman, Bayrout, al-makan, ab 1982, Manshourat al-Yasar (Haifa, Israel), 1987, published as Memory for Forgetfulness: August, Beirut, 1982, translated and with an introduction by Ibrahim Muhawi, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1995.

Ma'sat al-Nirjis wa-malhat al-fiddah (title means "The Tragedy of Narcissus and the Comedy of Silver"), Riad el-Rayyes (London, England), 1989.

Ara ma urid (title means "I See What I Want"), 1990.

(With Samih al-Qasim) Al-Rasa'il (correspondence), Dar Tubqal lil-Nashr (al-Dar al-Bayda, Morocco), 1990.

Abirouna fi kalam 'abir: maqalat mukhtarah, Dar Toubqal (al-Dar al-Bayda, Morocco), 1991.

Ara ma urid: shi'r, Mu'assasat al-Aswar (Acre, Israel), 1991.

Ihda 'ashar kawkaba (title means "Eleven Planets"), 1992.

Ahada 'ashara kawkaban, Dar Darwish (Beirut, Lebanon), 1992.

Ara ma urid, Dar al-Jadid (Beirut, Lebanon), 1993.

Psalms: Poems, translated and with an introduction by Ben Bennani, Three Continents Press (Colorado Springs, CO), 1994.

Falastin, Falastin (poems), Sang-i M-il Pabl-ikeshanz (Lahore, Pakistan), 1994.

Mahmoud Darwish, edited by Sabri Hafiz, illustrated by Ammar Salman, Dar al-Fata al-Arabi (Cairo, Egypt), 1994.

Li-Madha Tarakta al-Hisan Wahidan (title means "Why Have You Left the Horse Alone"), Riy-ad al-Rayyis lil-Kutub wa-al-Nashr (London, England), 1995.

Meno Rose, Cafoscarina (Venice, Italy), 1997.

(With Rene Backmann) Then Palestine, illustrated by Larry Towell, Aperture (New York, NY), 1998.

Sarir el Ghariba (love poems; title means "Bed of the Stranger"), 1998.

Jidariyat Mahmoud Darweesh: Qasidah KRutibat'am 1999 (poems), Riy-ad al-Rayyis lil-Kutub wa-al-Nashr (Beirut, Lebanon), 2000.

The Adam of Two Edens, edited by Munir Akash and Daniel Moore, Syracuse University Press (Syracuse, NY), 2000.

Halat hisar (title means "State of Siege"), Riyad al-Rayyis lil-Kutub wa-al-Nashr (Beirut, Lebanon), 2002.

Rilit al-shi'r wa-al-hayah, edited by Dib Ali Hasan, Dar al-Manarah lil-Tiba'ah wal-al-Nashr (Beirut, Lebanon), 2002.

Unfortunately, It Was Paradise (selected poems), translated and edited by Munir Akash and Carolyn Forché, with Sinan Antoon and Amira El-Zein, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2003.

La ta'Tadhir 'amma fa'alt, Riyad al-Rayyis lil-Kutub wa-al-Nashr (Beirut, Lebanon), 2004.

Author of Bayrout, Filastin, al-shi'r, c. 1980s. Contributor to Palestinian Leaders Discuss the New Challenges for the Resistance, Palestine Research Center (Beirut, Lebanon), 1974; Israéliens, Palestiniens: Photographies, poèmes calligraphiés, Edifra (Paris, France), 1994; and Le voyage en Palestine de la délégation du Parlement international des écrevains en réponse à, 2002; and to poetry collections.

Darwish's works have been translated into French, Spanish, German, Hebrew, and numerous other languages.

SIDELIGHTS: Hailed as one of the leading Palestinian poets of the twentieth century, Mahmoud Darwish was born in Palestine before the founding of the Israeli state. His family fled Israel's war of independence in 1948 and spent a year as refugees in Lebanon, before returning to Israel. Their original village had been destroyed and replaced by a Jewish settlement, so the family settled in a new village nearby, in Galilee. Darwish's formerly wealthy father was forced to work in a quarry to support the large family. These experiences influenced Darwish greatly and helped to mold his poetic imagination and voice. "Cut off from the rest of the Arab world, second-class citizens in a Jewish state, by law required to carry an identity card at all times, the Arabs in Israel had to work at maintaining their Palestinian identity," explained Inea Bushnaq in Parnassus. This predicament is addressed in "Identity Card," one of Darwish's best-known poems.

Darwish's first poem, written at age fourteen, is a lament on the inequities existing between Arab and Jewish children. After Darwish read this poem aloud at school, the local military authority told him to stop writing poetry and threatened that his father would lose his job otherwise. "From this early age, Darwish realised that poetry is action and relished the impact of his simple, innocent words on the mighty establishment," declared Sabry Hafez in Contemporary World Writers. His first poetry collection, Asafir bila ajnihah ("Sparrows without Wings"), was published when he was nineteen years old. In the 1960s he wrote and saw publication of three additional collections of poems; his second, Awraq al-zaytun ("Olive Branches"), secured his place as the leading poet of the Palestinian resistance movement. Darwish was jailed after the publication of each collection and subjected to long terms of house arrest between his imprisonments. His diary, Yawmiyat al-huzn al-'adi ("Diaries of Ordinary Grief"), paints the poet during this period of nighttime house arrests as a figure of light and the authorities as figures of darkness.

Darwish also worked as a journalist in Haifa, Israel, and was active in the Israeli Communist party until he left Israel in 1971 to complete his education in Moscow. Over the years he lived in numerous capital cities of the world before returning to Palestine in 1996. Since then he has lived in Ramallah, the city where the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) is headquartered. He set up an office in the Sakakini Centre, the home of a not-for-profit group dedicated to advancing Palestinian culture, and continued his work editing a long-running Arabic-language literary review, Al-Karmal. As he has been for much of his life, Darwish remains active in Palestinian national politics, but he sees a disconnect between his literary and political activities. "I don't think there is any role for poetry [in a Palestinian state]. Poems can't establish a state," Darwish told a Newsweek International interviewer in 2000. "But they can establish a metaphorical homeland in the minds of the people. I think my poems have built some houses in this landscape."

Although critics group Darwish's poetry into three phases, much of it deals with the loss of Palestine and requires readers to have some knowledge of Palestinian history. The first phase includes the first six poetry collections produced before Darwish left Israel. This poetry is "overtly political," Hafez wrote, "charged with the power to evoke tremendous resistance, which enabled it to capture and even inflame the imagination of its readers throughout the Arab world." Simple, direct, declamatory, and defiant, these poems' political purpose was to fortify Palestinians' determination to resist Israeli attempts to uproot them from their ancestral land. Influenced by Pablo Neruda, Federico García Lorca, and Karl Marx, these works were typified by their "lyrical iconography of simple Palestinian objects" and "celebrated the simple fact of being Palestinian in an atmosphere hostile to everything Palestinian," noted Hafez. Characterized by a sense of injury and loss, these first poems are also tempered by the poet's belief in the Palestinian cause and hope for its eventual success.

Darwish spent two years under house arrest in Israel in the late 1960s, and when he was released he went into exile. He studied in Moscow for a year, then settled in what was at that time the capital of the Arabic cultural world—Beirut, Lebanon. Darwish's second phase, corresponds to the decade he spent living in Beirut, from 1972 until 1982. His earlier poems had focused on the purer emotions of grief at what Palestinians had lost and optimism that it would soon be regained, but his poems from this period, characterized as refined and tense, instead detail the poet's struggle to remember the old faces and physical characteristics of his homeland. Poems spanning the first twenty-five years of Darwish's work and reflecting these first two periods are collected in The Music of Human Flesh, translated and published in 1980.

Darwish and the rest of the PLO were forced out of Beirut by the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. He wrote movingly of the destruction of Beirut in the book Dhakirah lil-nisyan: al-zaman, Bayrout, almakan, ab 1982, later published in English as Memory for Forgetfulness: August, Beirut, 1982. Darwish's third, post-Beirut phase is marked by several long, narrative poems that chastise the Arab regimes and describe the failure of Arab politics in the aftermath of the Israeli siege of Lebanon in 1982. "Darwish's poetry has become more pensive and sophisticated," stated Hafez, "for he thinks of himself as a maker of symbols rather than a receiver of symbols made by external reality." Several of Darwish's works from this period were collected in Victims of a Map: A Bilingual Translation of Arabic Poetry in 1984.

In 1988 Darwish caught world attention and caused a furor when a poem he wrote during the first Intifada (Palestinian uprising) questioned the idea that Palestinians and Jews could live together peacefully and seemed to demand that the Jews leave Israel. (Darwish has said that he only meant that Israel should withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.) This poem, "Passing Between Passing Words," has become a classic. It has been debated twice in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, once when it was first published in Hebrew and once in 2000, when Education Minister Yossi Sarid suggested that this and other of Darwish's poems should be studied by Israeli high school students. While Prime Minister Ehud Barak vetoed the suggestion to make the poems mandatory, they have since been offered as part of an elective class.

More of Darwish's poetry became available to English-speaking readers with the publication of two collections, The Adam of Two Edens and Unfortunately, It Was Paradise. The former work, published near the beginning of the second Intifada, "could not have appeared at a more crucial time" for the Palestinian cause, maintained Arab Studies Quarterly contributor Moustafa Bayoumi. These new poems reveal Darwish's continued progression away from traditional forms of poetry and concrete imagery into more abstract works, "yet somehow [his poetry] remains intimate and revelatory," Bayoumi commented.

Bushnaq commended Darwish's ability, throughout his career, to convey the anger, passion, and suffering that stemmed from the poet's love for his lost homeland, reflected in the poet's treatment of Palestine as his female, human lover in some of the poems. What Bushnaq expressed in a summary of the work of Palestinian poets overall can be applied to Darwish in particular: "It is as though the Palestinian poet, in the bleakness of his political situation, has become kin to the ancient poet of the desert—his poetry the only fixed indication that his people exist." Bayoumi wrote similarly in his review: "The unremitting and introspective 'I' of Darwish's poetry reverberates in poem after poem. . . . Darwish's 'I' is never settled or satisfied, but nervously proclaims itself in order not to disappear or be forgotten."



Contemporary World Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1993.


Arab Studies Quarterly, winter, 2002, Moustafa Bayoumi, review of The Adam of Two Edens, pp. 95-97.

Asia Africa Intelligence Wire, January 5, 2004, Bassam Za'za', "Darwish and Adonis Win Owais Award for Cultural Achievement."

Books & Culture, September-October, 2003, review of Unfortunately, It Was Paradise, pp. 8-9.

Choice, April, 1975, p. 230; June, 1985, p. 1502.

Christian Science Monitor, April 5, 1988, George D. Moffett III, "Israeli Left Finds Words, like Stones, Can Hurt," p. 1.

Grand Street, winter, 1994, Edward W. Said, "On Mahmoud Darwish," pp. 112-115.

Index on Censorship, May-June, 2000, Mouna Naim and Judith Vidal-Hall, profile of Darwish, pp. 154-160.

Journal of Palestine Studies, spring, 2001, Norbert Scholz, review of Then Palestine, p. 118; winter, 2002, Sinan Antoon, "Mahmud Darwish's Allegorical Critique of Oslo," pp. 66-77; spring, 2002, interview with Darwish, pp. 67-78.

Library Journal, November 1, 1974, p. 2853.

Los Angeles Times, March 7, 2000, Tracy Wilkinson, "Israelis Irate at Thought of Palestinian Poet in Schools," p. A1.

Middle East Journal, autumn, 1984, pp. 786-787, spring, 1987, Fouzi el Asmar, review of Sand and Other Poems, pp. 306-307.

Nation, September 17, 1990, p. 280; April 10, 2000, Ammiel Alcalay, "Israel's Five-Poem Word," p. 29.

New Republic, April 25, 1988, Leon Wieseltier, "A Poem Makes News," p. 15.

New Statesman, March 8, 1974, p. 333; June 17, 2002, John Pilger, interview with Darwish, pp. 13-14.

Newsweek International, March 20, 2000, interview with Darwish, p. 62.

New York Times, April 5, 1988, "Palestinian's Poem Unnerves Israelis," p. A8; May 10, 1996, "Suitcase No Longer His Homeland, a Poet Returns," p. A4; March 7, 2000, Susan Sachs, "Poetry of Arab Pain: Are Israeli Students Ready?," p. A4; December 22, 2001, Adam Shatz, "A Poet's Palestine as a Metaphor: The Loss of Eden, the Sorrows of Exile and Dispossession," pp. A17, A19.

Parnassus, Volume 14, number 2, 1988, pp. 150-188.

Progressive, May, 2002, Nathalie Handal, "Mahmoud Darwish: Palestine's Poet of Exile," pp. 24-26.

Publishers Weekly, March 26, 2001, review of The Adam of Two Edens, p. 86; November 25, 2002, review of Unfortunately, It Was Paradise, p. 59.

Tikkun, May-June, 2003, review of Unfortunately, It Was Paradise, p. 96.

Times Educational Supplement, January 25, 1985, p. 34.

Times Literary Supplement, January 11, 1974, p. 28.

World Literature Today, winter, 1978, p. 169; summer, 1985, p. 482.


Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre Web site,http://www.sakakini.org/ (April 20, 2004), "Mahmoud Darwish."

Pegasos,http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/ (April 23, 2004), "Mahmoud Darwish (1942—)."*