It’s probably true that you need to understand the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in order to really appreciate the poignant and intense economy with which Mahmoud Darwish described how Palestinians see the situation.
But, he was great. And now, Mahmoud Darwish is reported to have died this evening at the age of 67, during or following heart surgery in the USA.
UPDATE: There are some reports that he is not dead, but in very critical condition.
FURTHER UPDATE: The Jerusalem Post is now reporting here that Nabil Abu Rudeineh, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, is now confirming Mahmoud Darwish’s death.
Ma’an News Agency is reporting that the surgery was on Wednesday, in Texas, and complications arose on Saturday.
This is the top news story here. Never mind the Olympics, or John Edward’s affair….
In one of his poems, Promises of the Storm, he wrote: “I can assure you that I will refuse death”.
Today, it was too soon. Why? Why? We are filled with grief…
(Even if he did have two previous heart operations) Was this surgery optional? Could he have foregone it, and lived another ten years? When he appeared in Ramallah recently (See this post here ) to recite his newest work, he seemed fine, vital, strong.
UPDATE: Haaretz reported on Monday 11 August that his mother had urged Mahmoud Darwish not to have this surgery: “Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, who died on Saturday after heart surgery in Texas, came to see his mother before the operation. ‘He told me it was a dangerous procedure and I told him he shouldn’t have it’, she told Haaretz yesterday in her home in the village of Jadeida in the Western Galilee. ‘I told him we should put our faith in Allah’, the 85-year-old woman continued. He decided to have the operation anyway, and now I’ve lost my Mahmoud’. Despite being bed-ridden, her anguish at her loss shows she is acutely aware of what happened…” This report can be read in Haaretz in full here .
He received standing ovations when he entered Ramallah’s “Cultural Palace”, and when he started to speak. Then, the audience seemed to withdraw. As I wrote at the time, it seemed as if his latest work was not as appreciated by the Ramallah audience as his earlier work. One of the works he recited in Ramallah was about a Palestinian and an Israeli who had each fallen, separately, into a deep hole in the ground. They could not talk honestly to each other about their fears in that position. And, they were waiting for someone from the outside to come and rescue them…
For many reasons, one of my favorites was his version of the Biblical story of Yousef:
Oh my father, I am Yusuf
Oh father, my brothers neither love me nor want me in their midst
They assault me and cast stones and words at me
They want me to die so they can eulogize me
They closed the door of your house and left me outside
They expelled me from the field
Oh my father, they poisoned my grapes
They destroyed my toys
When the gentle wind played with my hair, they were jealous
They flamed up with rage against me and you
What did I deprive them of, Oh my father?
The butterflies stopped on my shoulder
The bird hovered over my hand
What have I done, Oh my father?
You named me Yusuf and they threw me into the well
They accused the wolf
The wolf is more merciful than my brothers
Oh, my father
Did I wrong anyone when I said that
I saw eleven stars and the sun and the moon
Saw them kneeling before me?
Marcel Khalife, the Lebanese singer, has put a number of Mahmoud Darwish’s poems to music, including his Yousef poem The song can be found on the Marcel Khalife website here .
Or, you can click on the link here to listen:
Mahmoud Darwish’s Yusuf set to music and sung by Marcel Khalife .
I saw Mahmoud Darwish over more than two decades in Beirut, in Damascus, in Washington, in New York, in London, in Paris, in Geneva — and last month in Ramallah. He was part of my life, and part of the lives of every Palestinian in Jerusalem and Ramallah and everywhere. And now, he is gone, and the world is simply not the same.
See my post on Palestine-Mandate for more, here .