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Victims of a Map: A Bilingual Anthology of Arabic Poetry

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Mahmud Darwish, Samih al-Qasim and Adonis are amongst the leading poets in the Arab world today. Victims of a Map presents some of their finest work in translation, alongside the original Arabic, including thirteen poems by Darwish never before published – in English or Arabic – and a long work by Adonis written during the 1982 siege of Beirut, also published here for the f Mahmud Darwish, Samih al-Qasim and Adonis are amongst the leading poets in the Arab world today. Victims of a Map presents some of their finest work in translation, alongside the original Arabic, including thirteen poems by Darwish never before published – in English or Arabic – and a long work by Adonis written during the 1982 siege of Beirut, also published here for the first time. Adonis (the pen-name of Ali Ahmad Said) was born in Syria in 1930. He was exiled to Beirut in 1956 and later became a Lebanese citizen. The founder of the influential journal Mawaqif, a critic as well as a poet, he has exercised enormous influence on Arabic literature. He is the author of Sufism and Surrealism, also published by Saqi. Mahmoud Darwish was born in 1942 in the village of al-Birweh in Galilee, Palestine. His family fled to Lebanon in 1948 when the Israeli Army destroyed their village. He was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize, the Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom, the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres from France and the Prince Claus Award from the Netherlands. He died in August 2008. Samih al-Qasim is a Palestinian born to a Druze family of Galilee in 1939. He grew up in Nazareth and has long been politically active in Israel, suffering imprisonment many times. A prolific writer, he had published six collections of poetry by the time he was thirty.


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Mahmud Darwish, Samih al-Qasim and Adonis are amongst the leading poets in the Arab world today. Victims of a Map presents some of their finest work in translation, alongside the original Arabic, including thirteen poems by Darwish never before published – in English or Arabic – and a long work by Adonis written during the 1982 siege of Beirut, also published here for the f Mahmud Darwish, Samih al-Qasim and Adonis are amongst the leading poets in the Arab world today. Victims of a Map presents some of their finest work in translation, alongside the original Arabic, including thirteen poems by Darwish never before published – in English or Arabic – and a long work by Adonis written during the 1982 siege of Beirut, also published here for the first time. Adonis (the pen-name of Ali Ahmad Said) was born in Syria in 1930. He was exiled to Beirut in 1956 and later became a Lebanese citizen. The founder of the influential journal Mawaqif, a critic as well as a poet, he has exercised enormous influence on Arabic literature. He is the author of Sufism and Surrealism, also published by Saqi. Mahmoud Darwish was born in 1942 in the village of al-Birweh in Galilee, Palestine. His family fled to Lebanon in 1948 when the Israeli Army destroyed their village. He was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize, the Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom, the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres from France and the Prince Claus Award from the Netherlands. He died in August 2008. Samih al-Qasim is a Palestinian born to a Druze family of Galilee in 1939. He grew up in Nazareth and has long been politically active in Israel, suffering imprisonment many times. A prolific writer, he had published six collections of poetry by the time he was thirty.

30 review for Victims of a Map: A Bilingual Anthology of Arabic Poetry

  1. 5 out of 5

    B. P. Rinehart

    "My era tells me bluntly: You do not belong. I answer bluntly: I do not belong, I try to understand you. Now I am a shadow Lost in the forest Of a skull." - First stanza of The Desert (The Diary of Beirut Under Siege, 1982) by Adonis. I usually don't go about dedicating my reviews, but this book is a special case at I read it after a conversation on Goodreads a year ago between myself and the person who (indirectly) recommended this book to me. After expressing my frustration of never learning about wr "My era tells me bluntly: You do not belong. I answer bluntly: I do not belong, I try to understand you. Now I am a shadow Lost in the forest Of a skull." - First stanza of The Desert (The Diary of Beirut Under Siege, 1982) by Adonis. I usually don't go about dedicating my reviews, but this book is a special case at I read it after a conversation on Goodreads a year ago between myself and the person who (indirectly) recommended this book to me. After expressing my frustration of never learning about writers outside of "The West" in school and especially poets from the middle-east (an area that, as far as literature was concerned, has specialized in poetry since forever) I was given an extensive list of poets and after some quick searching I came across this book which was surprisingly designed to address the very frustration I felt. This book is a straight-forward introduction/sample of 3 of the most significant contemporary (in a relative sense) Arab poets of the last 40 years or so. This book was published during the mid-1980s when the big conflict in the middle-east was The Lebanon War (I will get back to that later when I talk about Adonis). It features three poets: 2 Palestinians and one Syrian. I will go ahead and briefly review all 3 before giving my opinion on who stood out to me and what I thought of the book overall. The first poet featured was Mahmud Darwish of Palestine. "A Gentle Rain in a distant autumn And the birds are blue, are blue, And the earth is a feast. Don't say I wish I was a cloud over an airport. All I want From my country which fell out of the window of a train Is my mother's handkerchief And reasons for a new death." - first stanza of "A Gentle Rain in a Distant Autumn." Two things that the above quote features that I think all 3 poets like is precise use of repetition and use of symbolism and to make a point. What Darwish was a very prominent left-wing poet whose political activism and literature has drawn recognition and criticism across the Arab-Israeli divide. His poetry was unique to me in its use of the senses and memory. I have gotten so use to poets aiming for my psyche that it was amazing to read a poet who so impacted my senses and could describe something and make me see, smell, and taste it. He is also very fond of using nostalgia and memory in his poems in-which he wants you to remember something that happened to him. The second poet featured is Samih al-Qasim of Palestine. "On the day you kill me You'll find in my pocket Travel tickets To peace, To the fields and the rain, To people's conscience. Don't waste the tickets." - "Travel Tickets" Sometimes, less is more. No poet so exemplifies the previous statement like Samih al-Qasim. Like Mahmud Darwish he is a Palestinian, but unlike Darwsh, he has lived most of his life inside Israel in the town of Hafia and rarely leaves Israel or the Palestinian territories. Both al-Qasim and Darwish were involved in political causes and ran afoul of the Israeli government, but when it comes to poetry things are very different. Where Darwish writes in very descriptive long-form, al-Qasim is sparse, minimal and to the point. His poems may be only two lines, but you will read them over and over because of his mastery of symbolic expression makes you keep wanting to pick up something you thought you missed. His poems are so open to interpretation that you don't know if he is being darkly-comedic or tragic (or both). And now the man who is basically the headliner of this collection (and for good reason), Adonis (a.k.a. Ali Ahmad Said Esber) of Syria. "The street is a woman who says The Fatiha when she's grieved Or makes the sign of the Cross. Under her breast The hunchbacked night Fills his bag With grey whinning dogs And snuffed out stars." First stanza of "A Mirror for Beirut (1967)" Maybe the most famous Arab poet of the post-war 20th century, Adonis is definitely the "strongest" poet of the three featured in this book. I would guess that if a contemporary Arab poet is anthologized in "The West" it is him (or maybe Mahmud Darwish). His poetry, while sharing many traits with the two previous poets, is very intentionally styled after modernist poetry. Now I can start using names like T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound and etc., but he also has a connection to the older mystic poetry of Rumi and Kahil Gibran. His poetry reflects the wider Arab world (with an obvious bias towards Syria) and recognizes the presence of Christians in the Arab world (or at least in Syria/Lebanon). The centerpiece of this book is his poem "The Desert" which premiered in the first edition of this collection (which came out in 1984) and is a poetic "diary" of the Siege of Beirut which he was caught up in. If I had to recommend one poem from this book for a first time reader of Arabic poetry "The Desert" would be my choice hands down. I don't have any real criticism of any of these poets, all of them are the cream of the crop. My personal favorite was Samih al-Qasim whose style and tone nearly hypnotizes me. If pressed I would say that Adonis is the most "mature" of the three and his style may be the most familiar to a western audience, but when it comes to quality I think any of these poets would do nicely. Again, thank you Hend for steering me in the direction of good literature and I hope to one day return the favor.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Shirin

    This volume serves both as an introduction into Arabic poetry as well as into Arabic literature in general, as poetry is the most important and most widely read literary form in the Arab world. It is a both lyrical and political collection of poems by three of the best known and most popular poets of the Arabic language: Mahmud Darwish, Samih al-Qasim and Adonis. The three authors are considered to be among the most modern and most innovative writers of their language. In a mostly laconic languag This volume serves both as an introduction into Arabic poetry as well as into Arabic literature in general, as poetry is the most important and most widely read literary form in the Arab world. It is a both lyrical and political collection of poems by three of the best known and most popular poets of the Arabic language: Mahmud Darwish, Samih al-Qasim and Adonis. The three authors are considered to be among the most modern and most innovative writers of their language. In a mostly laconic language they give voice to their fellow countrymen’s isolation, the bareness of their lives, both hope and hopelessness and, above all, their yearning for freedom. Some of these images may sometimes seem unusual or strange to a western reader (it was for me at least), but patience is rewarded as these poems depict a new and quite different (both geographically and figuratively) scenery and mentality. This book is also a great resource for Arabic language learners. The Arabic text is vocalized in the most common way (most fathas and the diacritics for long vowels and for the most common words are left out; endings are always vocalized) and the simple sentence structures make it easy to follow the poem while still containing some particularities of the Arabic language. “We are entitled to love the end of autumn and ask: Is there room for another autumn in the field to rest our bodies like coal? An autumn lowering its leaves like gold. I wish we were fig leaves I wish we were an abandoned plant To witness the change of seasons. I wish we didn’t say goodbye To the south of the eye so as to ask what Our fathers had asked when they flew on the tip of the spear. Poetry And God’s name will be merciful to us. […]” “We are entitled to love the end of autumn” by Mahmoud Darwish, p. 18/19

  3. 5 out of 5

    Farhan Khalid

    Mahmud Darwish The earth is closing on us The earth is squeezing us Be the song of those who have no songs We fear for a dream We go on dreaming I wish we were fig leaves I wish we were an abandoned plant Give birth to me again I long for everything I long for myself I long for you We will live because life goes on We travel like other people but we return to nowhere As if travelling is the way of the clouds We have a country of words Speak speak so we may know the end of this travel We are here and in a momen Mahmud Darwish The earth is closing on us The earth is squeezing us Be the song of those who have no songs We fear for a dream We go on dreaming I wish we were fig leaves I wish we were an abandoned plant Give birth to me again I long for everything I long for myself I long for you We will live because life goes on We travel like other people but we return to nowhere As if travelling is the way of the clouds We have a country of words Speak speak so we may know the end of this travel We are here and in a moment we'll explode this siege In a moment we'll free a cloud and travel within ourselves A gentle rain in a distant autumn And the birds are blue are blue And the windows are white are white And the promises are green are green The birds have flown to a time which will not return My country is the joy of being in chains Samih al-Qasim On the day you kill me you'll find in my pocket travel tickets Don't waste the tickets A blue city dreamt of tourists Don't kill us fire We are young and pretty and we grew up together Don't kill us Don't k... They killed me once then wore my face many times From the window of my small cell I can see trees smiling at me Windows weeping and praying for me From the window of my small cell I can see your large cell Light the fire so I can see my tears Light the fire so I can see myself dying My suffering is your only inheritance The house collapsed The clock was still on the wall The clock ticked on Adonis The earth and sky trapped in a box of colours He never slept in a bed of myths The earth rises in my body As distant as our souls As distant as a journey into the space of the soul A sun that kills and destroys appears over the bridge Doubt is his home but he is full of eyes His words are engraved in the direction of loss loss loss Through a window of prayers we reached the sky We have lost faith in tomorrow Where we used to begin a new life How can I walk towards my people towards myself? How can I walk towards my passion my voice? My era tells me bluntly you do not belong I am a shadow lost in the forest Am I full of contradictions? I hung my death between my face and these bleeding words

  4. 5 out of 5

    Edita

    A gentle rain in a distant autumn And the birds are blue, are blue, And the earth is a feast. Don't say I wish I was a cloud over an airport. All I want From my country which fell out of the window of a train Is my mother's handkerchief And reasons for a new death.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Antonio Delgado

    Geography is unnatural, and often oppressive. These poets create different maps in order to express their selfs into an approximation for an open geography.

  6. 5 out of 5

    sameera

    actual rating: 4.5⭐️. a great introduction into Arabic poetry. I particularly loved the work of Darwish, finding it greatly evocative and poignant. It’s also nice to see the original Arabic text side-by-side with the English translation. Will definitely go back to this

  7. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Turcotte

    Marshall gives nods to all the feels of Chi, and calls out the disparities the city tries to ignore. Powerful pieces about missing friends lost to gun violence and memories in a lyrical collection pulling on heart strings while saying the unsayable.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Julie Gray

    I really enjoyed this collection, in particular, the poems of Samih Al-Quasim.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    Loved the poetry in it. Not sure if the translations were the best. For that I had to drop a star.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Fatema

    I hated the English translation.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Wawan Kurn

    Beberapa puisi di buku ini membuat saya harus mengangguk-angguk beberapa kali. Tiga penulis yang menyimpan kuasa kata dan makna dalam puisi-puisi!

  12. 5 out of 5

    whereIreadthewords

    I appreciated the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish but the other two not so much. I'm not a poetry person AT ALL so much of the lyrically was lost on me.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Yasmeen

    3.5 maybe because of the translation- some beautiful poetry with poets I hadn't heard of before. I've read other translations of Darwish that I thought were better so I assume the others could have been done better justice as well, but I'm glad I was exposed to them anyway.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tom Trewinnard

    Beautiful bilingual collection of Adonis, Darwish and al-Qasim.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    A great anthology of three modern poets writing in Arabic (Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian). Lyric, poignant and political -- all of the poems resonated with me and I want to read more from them.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Alexis Sherman

    This is a collection of poetry by Mahmoud Darwish, Adonis, and Samih al-Qasim-- all who address the loss of Palestine, war, and exile. It is also bilingual in English and Arabic.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Viswesh

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sara Alqhtani

  19. 4 out of 5

    Snatchy

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rania Masri

  21. 5 out of 5

    Wendi

  22. 5 out of 5

    Anna

  23. 5 out of 5

    Hanan

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sara Barquinero

  25. 4 out of 5

    Calista

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mohd Raslan

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nadiyah Rizki

  28. 4 out of 5

    MJ

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sophie Le

  30. 5 out of 5

    Cara L

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