Thursday, April 9, 2009
Mahmud Darwish : the story of an heritage
As they have been told by Mahmud Darwish that he had a collection of poems almost ready to be published, some of his friends looked in his papers for those works, and found different pieces.
Regarding their publication, some thought they could publish a selection of the works who looked finished or almost but Elias Khury, the famous Lebanese novelist and critic, convinced them to publish everything, arguing that nobody could take Darwish’s place and choose for him what was to be published or not. It was also suggested to entitle the book “The Last Poems” instead of “The Last Collection”, in order to emphasize the different character of this last publication.
But problems appeared when Riyad El-Rayyes, Darwish’s exclusive publisher since the 1990’s, printed the book, أريد لهذه القصيدة ان تنتهي (I don’t want this poem to end) which was distributed with a little booklet, written by Elias Khury, explaining the founding of those poems and the circumstances of the publication.
Various articles published in the Arab press, sometimes by well-known poets, have mentioned quite an amount of mistakes in Darwish’s last publication, especially at the rhythmical level. Something people could notice as the Palestinian poet used to write a “cadenced poetry,” in a way opened in the 1950’ in Iraq, which only follows some of the rhythmical laws of the classical Arabic versification.
Following a bitter exchange in the press of justifications and renewed critics, the publisher, Riyad El-Rayyes, publicly declared that he could not be considered responsible of such failure, as he could not see the original manuscript as he used to do when Mahmud Darwish was alive. It was then Elias Khury’s fault, who did not give him access to the original text and who had insisted very much in order to have his own text, explaining the founding of the poems, published as a preface or a postface, something which never occurred during Darwish’s life and that Rayyes totally refused.
Obviously, the real question is that of Mahmud Darwish’s symbolical heritage, and there are people who think that Elias Khury tried to sing his own praise and at least has given the impression that he was willing to do so.
The various episodes of this heritage story must be only mentioned because they show how terrible is the lack of some real great names on today’s Arabic cultural stage. Such a desire for great cultural icons makes thus natural the project that Fares Ibrahim announced to the press some months ago: after Umm Kulthum, Ismahane and Nizar Kabbani, this famous Syrian producer of TV serial wants to make a TV novella based on Mahmud Darwish’s life…
As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.