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February 27, 2011

Page: 24/41

Home > 2011 Issues > February 27, 2011

An inquiry on crisis in West Asia
By Tej N dhar

Journal of an Ordinary Grief, Mahmoud Darwish; translated by Ibrahim Muhawi, Archipelago Books, 2010; Pp xv + 177 (PB), $ 16;

NAMED after one of the sections in it, Journal of an Ordinary Grief is the English translation of one of the three major prose works of Darwish. Though it has a strong autobiographical flavour to it, it is about the displacement of Palestinians, their pain and suffering, and their resistance against their oppression.

The different sections of the book read like short meditations on the troubled existence of Palestinians and their craving for homeland. All the Palestinians are on "the road of exile," because they have been deprived of their homes. Their "homeland surpasses Paradise" and its search is a search for the lost heart, for "a place is not only a geographical area; it’s also a state of mind." The account punctures the falsehood spread by the Israelis that the Arabs sold their land to them. When his grandfather tried to return to his place, he was charged with "stealing into his own country."

Darwish also writes about the war of memories between the Israelis and Arabs. The former use the memory of the holocaust to justify their claim to the Arab land, but when the latter ask for their homeland they are denied their memory. Therefore, the only way out for them is to fight: "When you fight back you belong. And the homeland is this struggle." Another section provides details on the Kufr Qasem Massacre which the Israelis justified by their philosophy of "Either be a killer or be the one killed." It also reveals how the people involved in it were either pardoned or found guilty of a technical error and let off with a rebuke and a fine of one Israeli piaster. Darwish also elaborates on the dichotomies starkly visible in the Israeli position, for it recognizes that "the state has a right to kill its own people and those belonging to other nations, but the individual does not have a right to fight for the sake of freedom."

Darwish’s book is a must read for all those who wish to know the Palestinian suffering and why they are fighting to regain their homeland.

(Archipelago Books, 232, Third Street # A111 Brooklyn, NY 11215)

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