Mahmoud Darwish, A Poet's Complex Trajectory
Mahmoud Darwish: The Poet's Art and His Nation

Kumar, Gayatri

Publisher:  Against the Current
Date Written:  01/03/2016
Year Published:  2016  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX21371

Book review of Khaled Mattawa's Mahmoud Darwish: The Poet's Art and His Nation.



Darwish's early work aimed to create a consensus among the Palestinian collective, and instill a sense of heroism among the people. Mattawa argues that Darwish's poems between 1964 and 1971 - the time of his own Communist affiliations - displayed a "combination of instruction, seriousness, and simplicity" in accordance with the tenets of "adab al-iltizam," or literature of commitment.

This period features some of the most recognizable elements of his poetry, such as the transformation of the love motif to portray Palestine as the beloved, and his insistence on humanizing the Israeli occupier. This genre of politically-oriented writing, influenced by socialist realism and Sartre's views on engagement, was propounded by Egyptian and Lebanese critics in the 1950s; it aimed to depict social and political realities in the language of the common people, fostering heroism and a collective political consciousness among the masses.

Mattawa does not explicitly state whether Darwish himself saw his work as adhering to the tenets of adab al-iltizam, but this is nevertheless an interesting (and convincing) hermeneutic move, placing the poet in dialogue with political writing in Arabic. (It is important to note here that Mattawa also reads Palestinian literary production within Israel as a "minor literature," as per Deleuze and Guattari's famous formulation, but chooses to read Darwish's work using a framework particular to Arabic writing.)