“Let us go, you and I, on two paths: You, to a second life, promised to you by language in a reader who might survive the fall of a comet on earth. I, to a rendezvous I postponed more than once, with a death I promised a glass of red wine in a poem.” — Mahmoud Darwish
The issue opens with a major 70-page feature on the life and legacy of Mahmoud Darwish. It includes articles, tributes, poems and many photographs of the great Palestinian and world poet, who passed away on Saturday 9 August following complications after major heart surgery in Houston, Texas, at the age of 67. “Darwish left behind,” writes Sinan Antoon, “an entire continent of poems whispering and singing inside Arabic and calling on us to reacquaint ourselves with its topography.” There are poems from Mahmoud Darwish’s last collection, translated by Catherine Cobham, to be published by Saqi Books next year as If I Were a Stone, and a long poem, written earlier this year At the Station of a Train which Fell Off the Map, translated by Sinan Antoon.
Fellow poets, and writers from around the world contribute their feelings on his passing, including Saadi Yousef, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Denys Johnson Davies, Wole Soyinka, Mark Strand, Abdo Wazen, Kadhim Jihad Hassan, Alberto Manguel, Amjad Nasser, Marie-Thérèse Abdel-Messih, Giuseppe Goffredo, Fadhil al-Azzawi, Judith Kazantzis, Thomas Høegh, Peter Clark, Clara Janès, Gaber Asfour, Bernard Noël, Mohammed Bennis, Naomi Shihab Nye, Stephen Watts, Qassim Haddad, Saif al-Rahbi, Issa J Boullata, Taha Adnan, and Mahmoud Shukair.
The feature includes rare photographs of Mahmoud Darwish taken in the last months of his life as he worked with Arts Alliance Productions on their film project Identity of the Soul which screened open-air shows to packed audiences in Palestine in October.
Part 3 of our series on Contemporary Syrian Literature opens with poems by Adonis, selected from Mihyar of Damascus: His Songs, a new volume in translation from BOA Editions. There is also fiction from Fawwaz Haddad, who is long-listed for the 2008-09 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, from Khalil al-Neimi’s intriguing novel, In Praise of Deserting, with short stories from Ibrahim Samuel and Gladys Matar, and poems from Hussein Bin Hamza.
Banipal 33 includes many book reviews to whet readers’ appetites. They include The Butterfly’s Burden, by Mahmoud Darwish, which won the 2008 Saif Ghobash–Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation for its translator Fady Joudah, as well as a review of his own award-winning poetry collection, The Earth in the Attic. A sheaf of novels in translation is reviewed, including The Year of the Revolutionary Bread-Making Machine by Hassan Daoud, Wild Mulberries by Iman Humaydan Younes, Nuit de l’étranger by Habib Selmi, Hakawati by Rabih Almeddine, The Collar and the Bracelet by Yahya Taher Abdullah, Gold Dust by Ibrahim al-Koni, and The Journals of Sarab Affan by Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, as well as The Road from Damascus by Robin Yassin-Kassab, Contemporary Iraqi Fiction, An Anthology by Shakir Mustafa, and Denys Johnson Davies reviews David Tresilian’s A Brief Introduction to Modern Arabic Literature.