Mahmoud Darwish


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Darwish is considered to be the most important contemporary Arab poet working today. He was born in 1942 in  the village of Barweh in the Galilee, which was razed to the ground by the Israelis in 1948. As a result of his politi-cal activism he faced house arrest and imprisonment. Darwish was the editor of Ittihad Newspaper before leaving in 1971 to study for a year in the USSR. Then he went to Egypt where he worked in Cairo for Al-Ahram Newspaper and in Beirut, Lebanon as an editor of the Journal “Palestinian Issues”. He was also the director of the Palestinian Research Center. Darwish was a member of the Executive Committee of the PLO and lived in exile between Beirut and Paris until his return in 1996 to Palestine. His poems are known throughout the Arab world, and  several of them have been put to music. His poetry has gained great sophistication over the years, and has enjoyed international fame for a long time. He has published around 30 poetry and prose  collections, which have been translated into 35 languages. He is the editor in chief and founder   of the prestigious literary review Al Karmel, which has resumed publication in January 1997 out of the Sakakini Centre offices. He published in 1998 the poetry collection: Sareer el Ghariba (Bed of the Stranger), his first collection of love poems. In 2000 he published Jidariyya (Mural) a book consisting of one poem about his near death experience in 1997. In 1997 a documentary was produced about him by French TV directed by noted French-Israeli director Simone Bitton. He is a commander of the French Order of Arts and Letters.                                                   

                             Mahmoud Darwish is the winner of 2001 Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom. The prize recognizes people whose extraordinary and courageous work celebrates the human right to freedom of imagination, inquiry, and expression. As defined by the foundation, cultural freedom is the right of individuals and communities to define and protect valued and diverse ways of life currently threatened by globalization.

In  the words of poet Naomi Shihab Nye. Mr. Darwish is “the Essential Breath of the Palestinian people, the eloquent witness of exile and belonging, exquisitely tuned singer of images that invoke, link, and shine a brilliant light into the world’s whole heart. What he speaks has been embraced by readers around the world – his in an utterly necessary voice, unforgettable once discovered.”

Mr. Darwish published his first book of poetry, Leaves of Olives, in 1964, at the age of 22. Since then, he has published more than twenty poetry books, including The Adam of Two Edens, Mural, Why Have you Left the Horse Alone, and Eleven Planets. The University of California Press has published his prose work, Memory For Forgetfulness. In 2000, Gallimard published the latest French anthology of his work and, in 2002, a new English translation of Mr. Darwish’s Selected Poems will be published in the United States.Among his accomplishments is the 1969 Lotus Prize and 30 compilations of poetry and prose.