Palestinian poet and memoirist Mourid Barghouti — widower of the great Egyptian novelist Radwa Ashour (1946-2014) — died on February 14, 2021:
He was 76.
Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti, who was unable to return to his home in Palestine after 1967, was a beloved poet, performer, public speaker, and memoirist. He wrote the popular memoir I Saw Ramallah, which chronicled his return to the West Bank in 1997 and was translated by novelist Ahdaf Souief. He also wrote a follow-up memoir I Was Born There, I Was Born Here, which tells his story from 1998 to 2010, translated by Humphrey Davies.
He published more than a dozen collections of poems, and a collection of his work, Midnight and Other Poems, was translated by his life partner, Radwa Ashour. From the collection:
truth needs no eloquence.
After the death of the horseman,
the homeward-bound horse
without saying anything.”
Their relationship was iconic. In his second memoir, I Was Born There, I Was Born Here, trans. Humphrey Davies, Barghouti wrote:
I read my first poems to her on the steps of the Cairo University library when we were not yet twenty. We took part together in literary gatherings at the Faculty without it occurring to us that a personal interest had developed, or was developing, between us. We were students and limited our conversation to ‘professional’ matters such as our studies and never went beyond these into any intimate topic. She would tell me, ‘You will become a poet,’ and I would reply, ‘And what if I fail at that?’ I’d tell her, ‘You will become a great novelist’ and she’d give the same answer and we’d laugh. This ‘fraternal’ language and collegial spirit continued between us until the four years of study were over and I went to work in Kuwait. I used to write regular letters about my new life in Kuwait to her and to Amina Sabri and Amira Fahmi, our best friends throughout our studies, with whom we’d made something like a small family. I realized, however, that my letters to Radwa contained nothing of my news or the events of my life and concerned themselves only with my unspoken feelings about that life.
When I saw her on my first visit to Cairo during the summer holidays, we found ourselves talking like a mother and a father, and sometimes like a grandmother and a grandfather. We talked like a family of two that had been together for ages.
It was out of the question to talk about ‘steps’ we ought to be taking.
They married in 1970, and Radwa went to the U.S. for a time to study toward her PhD, chronicling that time and her relationship with Mourid in her memoir The Journey. Their only son, Tamim, was born in 1977. The two of them were married for forty-four years; she passed in 2014.
Mourid continued to be a force in literature, as a critical judge of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2015 and continuing to give talks at literary events around the world.
He will be missed.
The Guardian: A life in writing: Mourid Barghouti