Friday, July 18, 2003

Israeli poet Haim Gouri reviews the Hebrew translation of the latest book written by Palestinian national poet, Mahmoud Darwish, in Haaretz's book supplement "Sfarim".

Darwish's book does not try to share the blame. The entire burden of the yoke is on our necks. In this he is completely different from well-known Israeli poets who express guilt and remorse in their poems. But perhaps the Hebrew reader will take comfort in the ambivalence that characterizes many of the poems in this book and find in them some sort of desperate attempt at dialogue, at possible reconciliation: "Peace unto those who discern like me / in the intoxication of the glow, the glow of the butterfly / in the darkness of the tunnel ..."; "Peace, to see the magnet of the fox's eyes / arousing a hesitant woman's lust ... / Peace, the woe that holds up the treetops / an Andalusian song in the heart of a wandering guitar."


I think Israelis who have not stopped fighting the Palestinians' fight, have held out a hand and have sought friendship, will ask questions that have no answer in quite a number of the poems in this book. He who addresses us in the name of his besieged and humiliated nation, wounded by gunfire, but cannot look directly at the crushed bodies of Israelis in hotels, shopping malls, buses and cafes. But something very human happens further on when the Palestinian father, who is looking at a picture of his son the shaheed, says: "How did we switch roles, my son, / And you led me behind you?" No, not the proud mourners' pavilions.

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By the way, we have decided not to renew our subscription to the print version of Haaretz after all. We received it free of charge for a fortnight to make our decision. Then Bish received a phone call complaining that we had cancelled the direct debit (duh!). They hadn't bothered to check if we wanted to renew our subscription at the end of the fortnight, they had just attempted to resume collecting the money automatically, assuming that we would. Two newspapers really were too much. We couldn't handle the mounds of paper that descended on us daily. I can always read Haaretz on the net.