Saturday, 6 December 2014

One down, loads to go

I have finished my first book of the holidays: Journal of an Ordinary Grief (1973) - Mahmoud Darwish, translated by Ibrahim Muhawi.

The chapter on Gaza explains a lot. I hadn't perceived its importance at all, until now. How blind can one be?

You could open the book at random and pick any sentence to write from. I took 2 a while ago and gave them as a writing challenge on a forum I am on. I like starting from somewhere and going somewhere else entirely. The starting point acts as a door or a permission to make a start. It is not meant to hold you to remaining on a topic at all. The words are just that, and can be used freely.

There are 2 further books in the trilogy of memoirs, written later and much later: Memory for Forgetfulness (1985) and In the Presence of Absence (2006). For another time.

There is a concept I hadn't come across before - the Arabic Sentence. By that I think he means the impossibility of expressing the truth in language, yet it is the safest arena for trying to do so. So using Arabic gives him an unchallenged space, which is denied geographically and politically. The language is under his control and is his in an undeniable and permanent way, whatever might happen. The words are the most powerful and permanent weapon. Putting them in sentences wraps them up in an endless series of statements which can't be refused permission or denied existence or status. No one apart from an Arabic speaker can use the language, so it is a plastic, living, unlimitable force.

The preface by the translator doesn't look at it quite like that, but we can see what we like in a work..

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