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The Butterfly's Burden

The Butterfly's Burden

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Bilingual Arabic-English edition translated by Fady Joudah

Mahmoud Darwish (1942-2008) was the poetic voice of the Palestinian people. One of the most acclaimed contemporary poets in the Arab world, he was also a prominent spokesman for human rights who spent most of his life in exile.

In his early work, the features of his beloved land - its flowers and birds, towns and waters - were an integral part of poems witnessing a string of political and humanitarian tragedies afflicting his people. In his most recent books, his writing stands at the border of earth and sky, reality and myth, poetry and prose.

Returning to Palestine in 1996, he settled in Ramallah, where he surprised his huge following in the Arab world by writing a book of love, The Stranger’s Bed (1998), singing of love as a private exile, not about exile as a public love. A State of Siege (2002) was his response to the second Intifada, his testament not only to human suffering but to art under duress, art in transmutation. The 47 short lyrics of Don’t Apologise for What You’ve Done (2003) form a transfiguring incarnation or incantation of the poet after the carnage. The Butterfly’s Burden is a translation of these three recent books. It was awarded the Saif Ghobash–Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation in 2008.

"Like a kind of scientist, Mahmoud Darwish spent his life concocting Palestinian national identity, though its links to the land, and to the Arabic language and culture, were established long before him. In his poetry he tried to link that identity to a humanist global culture, to pre-Arab and pre-Islamic cultures of the Middle East, and to those details of human life that are beautiful in any culture or place."
Mourid Barghouti, The Guardian

"Mahmoud Darwish is one of the two or three most admired, and widely read poets from the Arab world… While unequivocally anchored in the present, his poems draw on the traditions of Al-Andalus, the near-mythical site of flowering Arab, European and Sephardic Jewish art and science - as much in Darwish’s re-creation and renewal of Arabic prosody and inweaving of legend as in his fraternal openness to and exchange with poets like Ritsos and Neruda. In the brilliant, bilingual poet Fady Joudah, Darwish has found a translator capable of rendering in English his unflinching, questing, and above all loving poems."
Marilyn Hacker

"Darwish has not only remade a national consciousness; he has reworked language and poetic tradition to do so… Beauty, he shows us in this indispensable collection, is a necessary, always-renewed truth…"
Fiona Sampson, The Guardian

"Joudah's translations never try to smooth away the strangeness that will linger in any English rendering of Darwish's densely wrought, allusive verse… Yet this poetry of exile and desire, prophecy and tenderness, can still ring out with spine-tingling force."
Boyd Tonkin, The Independent