(From The National. Link to the complete article given below)
In describing Darwish’s legacy and greatness, Ahdaf Soueif, an award-winning British-Egyptian novelist and writer, told The National: “Mahmoud Darwish is simply a great poet. He has the poet’s god-given ability to use language to trigger new perceptions and to create the aesthetic fusion that hits the listener or reader’s heart and mind at the same time.
“Add to this that he was Palestinian at a time when Palestine was ‘the cause’ for every native speaker of Arabic, and that he was committed to that cause and fought for it, that he was modest, and charismatic, and you have a superstar. Darwish filled stadiums when he read. You cannot overstate his legacy.”
Born in 1941 in a village in what is today Israel, he witnessed, and was often a part of, seminal chapters in the history of Palestine throughout the 20th century and the start of the 21st century. He was a refugee, revolutionary, nationalist, humanist – all chronicled in his poetry.
The writer ‘has to resist’
In 2008, Darwish was the first writer approached by Soueif and other members of the Board of the Palestine Festival of Literature (PalFest) to be one of the festival’s founding patrons. He accepted.
Darwish was due to participate in the inaugural festival but had to decline due to health issues. His address was a letter welcoming the group of international writers who had travelled to Palestine for the festival, and thanking them for their solidarity. Three months later, he was being laid to rest in Ramallah.
“Darwish was 100 per cent artist, he was also 100 per cent engaged with the struggle for liberation,” says Soueif by email. “In his address to PalFest in 2008, Darwish described his personal task: how the poet ‘has to use the word to resist the military occupation. And has to resist – on behalf of the word – the danger of the banal and the repetitive.’ It’s tremendously touching as well as instructive to read his work with an awareness of that constant struggle to make his work serve his cause and, at the same time, to allow his work to be true to itself, and to create a bit of space for the ‘literariness’ of his poetry.”