Tuqan, Fadwa 1917-2003

views updated

TUQAN, Fadwa 1917-2003

PERSONAL: Born March 1, 1917, in Nablus, Ottoman Empire; died December 12, 2003, in Nablus, Palestine. Education: Studied English at Oxford University, 1962-64.

CAREER: Poet and activist. Member of board of trustees, an-Najah University, Nablus, Palestine.

AWARDS, HONORS: International Poetry Award, 1990; Jerusalem Award for Culture and Arts, Palestine Liberation Organization, 1990; United Arab Emirates Award, 1990; Palestine Prize for Poetry, 1996.


Wajadtuha (Ta'lif) Fadwa Tuqan, Manshurat Dar al-Adab (Beirut, Lebanon), 1962.

Wahdim'a al-Ayyam, Dar al-Adab (Beirut, Lebanon), 1965.

Amama al-Bab al-Mughlaq, Dar al-Adab (Beirut, Lebanon), 1967.

Al-Fida'i Waalard, 1968.

Al-Layl Waalfursan, Dar al-Adab (Beirut, Lebanon), 1969.

Alá Qimmat al-Dunya Wahidan: Shi'r, Dar al-Adab (Beirut, Lebanon), 1973.

Diwan Fadwa Tuqan, Dar al-Adab (Beirut, Lebanon), 1978.

Qasa'id Siyasiyah, al-Aswar (Akka), 1980.

Rihlah Sa'bah, Rihlah Jabaliyah, al-Aswar (Akka), 1985, translation by Olive Kenny published as A Mountainous Journey, Graywolf Press (St. Paul, MN), 1990.

Tammuz Waalshay' al-Akhar: Shi'r, Dar al-Shuruq (Amman, Jordan), 1987.

Daily Nightmares: Ten Poems, translation by Yusra A. Salah, Palestinian Writers Union, 1991.

Al-A'mal al-Shi'riyah al-Kamilah, al-Mu'assassah al-'Arabiyah lil-Dirasat Waal Nahr (Amman, Jordan), 1993.

Al-Rihlah al-As'ab, Dar al-Shuruq (Amman, Jordan), 1993.

Selected Poems of Fadwa Tuqan, translation by Ibrahim Dawood, Yarmouk University (Irbid, Jordan), 1994.

Al-Lahn al-Akhir, Dar al-Shuruq (Amman, Jordan), 2000.

Yusuf Husayn Bakkar, editors, Al-Rihlah al-Mansiyah:Fadwa Tuqan Wa-Tufulatuha al-Ibda'iyah: Dirasah Wanusus, al-Mu'assassah al-'Arabiyah lil-Dirasat Waal Nahr (Amman, Jordan), 2003.

SIDELIGHTS: Hailed as Palestine's greatest poetess, Fadwa Tuqan lived the history of her land, from British mandate through Israeli occupation to limited autonomy. Born in 1917 to one of the most prominent families in Nablus, a town on the West Bank, Tuqan began writing poetry of love and nature, but her verses became more political after the founding of Israel and especially after the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in 1967. Eventually she emerged as a powerful voice of Palestinian liberation, inspiring a generation to resist. Indeed, former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan once said that reading one of Tuqan's poems was like facing twenty enemy commandos.

In the year of Tuqan's birth, the Balfour Declaration committed Great Britain to establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine, a decision that would shape the rest of the poet's life. However, even before the creation of Israel and the Palestinian diaspora, Tuqan was a something of a rebel. Though born into wealth and privilege, as a woman she was severely restricted by the traditional norms of an Arabic town, and her father refused to send her to school. Fortunately, her brother Ibrahim, a well-known poet himself, taught his little sister the fundamentals of poetry and encouraged her to find her voice. A visit to Jerusalem in 1939 introduced Tuqan to a more cosmopolitan outlook, and in 1948 the influx of Palestinian refugees into Nablus further expanded her horizons. While she eventually attended Oxford University and traveled throughout Europe, these experiences only strengthened her identity as an Arab Palestinian. As Samar Attar put it in the Arab Studies Quarterly, "Unlike many colonized writers and intellectuals in Asia and Africa, she has escaped marginalization and servitude, for she, at least, possesses her own language."

Tuqan's first collection, My Brother Ibrahim, is a loving tribute to the man who launched her career. Over the years, collections such as Give Us Love and Before the Closed Door have provided insights into universal themes, such as loss and exile, but collectively they trace the development of the Palestinian people, from despair to steadfastness to resistance. One of her most famous poems, "Martyrs of the Intifada," celebrates the young stone-throwers who defied Israeli tanks, while others discuss the indignities of waiting at border crossings in her country and the outrage of house demolitions. As Lawrence Joffe commented in the Guardian, "even poems based on distinctly non-Palestinian subjects—such as 'Visions of Henry,' inspired by a painting by William Faulkner—hark back to her 'lost homeland.'" At the same time, noted Abbas Beydoun at Jehat.com, Tuqan's "voice was not a fighting one but bereaved, deprived, gentle, and insistent and visceral at times; it was a voice searching for love only to find fate, searching for a song and a flower to find instead the grave and the tank."

Tuqan also found stereotypes and indignities within her own culture and spoke out against them. As she recounted in her memoir, A Mountainous Journey, she was an unwanted child with a dictatorial father and a submissive mother, surrounded by relatives who restricted her every move. Paradoxically, the first glimmerings of independence came with the influx of Palestinian refugees into her hometown. As she put it, "When the roof fell on Palestine, the veil fell off the face of the Nablus woman." She also moved away from traditional forms of Arabic poetry, embracing free verse and new modes of expression. Nor was her influence restricted to Palestinians. Her poems were translated into English in the 1980s, and as Joffe noted in his London Guardian obituary, "Israeli and Jewish feminists divined a sympathetic resonance from their sister across the 'green line.'"

Still, her support for Palestinian liberation and her commitment to telling their story remained of paramount importance. In the face of anger, despair, and occupation, she held out hope and determination. As she put it in A Mountainous Journey, "My story is about the struggle of a seed battling with the land, rocky and hard. It is the story of a fight against dryness and the rock."



Tuqan, Fadwa, A Mountainous Journey, Graywolf Press (St. Paul, MN), 1990.


Arab Studies Quarterly, October, 1999, Samar Attar, "A Discovery Voyage of Self and Other: Fadwa Tuqan's Sojourn in England in the Early Sixties," pp. 1-28.


Jehat.com,http://www.jehat.com/ (November 22, 2004), Abbas Beydoun, "Fadwa Tuqan: An Arab Electra."

Jerusalemites.org,http://www.jerusalemites.org/ (November 22, 2004), "Fadwa Tuqan."



Europe Intelligence Wire, December 13, 2003, "Famous Palestinian Poetess Fadwa Tuqan Is Dead."

Guardian (London, England), December 15, 2003, Lawrence Joffe, "Fadwa Tuqan: Palestinian Poetess Who Captured Her Nation's Sense of Loss and Defiance," p. 19.

Times (London, England), January 3, 2004, p. 42.*