Hussein Jelaad on Corrupt Journalists, Great Novels, and Poetry’s Attempt to Overthrow the World

Jordanian poet and journalist Hussein Jelaad is the latest of the Beirut39 (39 talented Arab writers under 40) to be interviewed by Sousan Hammad. She asked about his influences:

You may find it strange if I told you that novelists were the most influential in my writings. Not every novelist, but only the greatest novelists such as Henry Miller, Dostoevsky, Ghaleb Halasa, Haidar Haidar, and Elias Farkouh.

No, but I may find it strange that none of these writers—the Jordanian Ghaleb Halasa, the Syrian Haidar Haidar and the Jordanian Elias Farkouh—have had a novel translated into English. Farkouh has a story in the recent Madinah collection from Comma Press, and his Land of Purgatory was shortlisted for the 2008 Arabic Booker, so perhaps we’ll see one of his novels in English soon.

In any case, it was not they who turned Jelaad into a poet:

However, just to remain precise here, I will say that the poet Mahmoud Darwish was the one to change my life. His influence on me was far greater than what a professional poet leaves on an aspiring poet. Darwish’s words stimulated my conscious[ness] during my early years, making me aware of the magic of the words and how the intellectual identity gets created. Poetry is the result of criticizing life and attempting to overthrow the world.

Jelaad spoke not only of his poetry, but of journalism—which led naturally to censorship, corruption, and “the dumpster of history.” Said Jelaad:

Corruption is not only in governments. Corrupt are those journalists who fear, and who accept briberies.

There are those who call in “intelligence agencies” to get their stories dictated to them by an intelligence officer. Some are simply corrupted by a new car or a pair of shoes. Yet on the other side, there still exists those who carry their pencils to defend the future of their countries. This matter is relative as a writer is the one to choose which side he stands for: the honor of free speech, or the dumpster of history.

I couldn’t find any of Jelaad’s poems translated into English.