Mahmoud Darwish was born on this day in 1941. Eleven cities around Italy are remembering his work today, keeping it in the light, and (virtually) we join them:
From Ibrahim Muhawi’s wonderful translation of Darwish’s Journal of an Ordinary Grief:
Tonight is your birthday: the thirteenth of March. And you want an occasion to wrest a deceptive happiness from the grim days. You gather your friends. You conspire against sadness with cups and music and cutting jokes. The music gets louder and you dance. The laughter of the girls reaches the neighbors’ windows. At midnight a policeman arrives. He checks identities and threatens arrest. Be civilized. Enough barbarism. You ask him why, and he says the neighbors had called, to keep the building quiet. You say, “It’s a birthday,” and he answers, “That’s no concern of mine.”
Oh my good neighbors! Why didn’t you warn me that my happiness gives you pain? And why does the music you play, which is made from my blood, pour into my windows every night with no complaint from me? When are you going to get out of my craw, O neighbors? When?
When you go to bed you reach the conclusion that the neighbors were right. In the morning you apologize: “I have no right to celebrate as long as I am your neighbor. Forgive me, O neighbors!” I repent for celebrating.
With “Standing Before the Ruins of Al-Birweh,” trans. Sinan Antoon. Darwish was born in al-Birweh, which was occupied and depopulated seven years later.
An interview with Raja Shehadeh, in which Darwish said: “For gaining in experience and furthering one’s knowledge, the city is the better locale, but for getting on with the writing process the village has fewer distractions. The smaller the place the better for writing. In my house the room I write in is the smallest in the house.”