Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Palestine As Metaphor (Mahmoud Darwish)

Yes, now I understand (I think)!


Title: Palestine As Metaphor (La Palestine Comme Métaphore)
Author: Mahmoud Darwish (and interviewers)
Translators: Amira El-Zein & Carolyn Forché
Genre: Non-Fiction / Interviews
First published: 2019
Edition: Paperback, published by Olive Branch Press in 2019

Palestine as Metaphor consists of a series of interviews with Mahmoud Darwish, which have never appeared in English before. The interviews are a wealth of information on the poet’s personal life, his relationships, his numerous works, and his tragedy. They illuminate Darwish’s conception of poetry as a supreme art that transcends time and place. Several writers and journalists conducted the interviews, including a Lebanese poet, a Syrian literary critic, three Palestinian writers, and an Israeli journalist. Each encounter took place in a different city from Nicosia to London, Paris, and Amman. These vivid dialogues unravel the threads of a rich life haunted by the loss of Palestine and illuminate the genius and the distress of a major world poet.


I will be hard to explain what reading this book felt like for me. This is a collection of interviews with a poet, whose work I love, but who always feels way more intelligent than I am. I won’t I always exactly understand his work and his metaphors, but I always feel it deep inside. It always touches something.

As I started it I felt completely out of my depth. Both the interviewer in the first section (Abbas Beydoun, a Lebanese poet) and Darwish himself were clearly far smarter and eloquent than I was. I felt a bit lost and maybe a little awed by the conversation.

However, as I got more and more into the book I realised that I was understanding it perfectly fine and that I actually really enjoyed the somewhat philosophical tone. It just took me a moment to flick that switch in my brain. What this book did for me is to get a better understanding of the man, whose work touches my soul. He talks very eloquently about what it means to be a poet, what it means to be Palestinian, and what it means to be a Palestinian poet. It also becomes clear how important poetry is to him. The man WAS poetry.

In the interview with Israeli poet Helit Yeshurun it is clear that the Israel-Palestine conflict is very current and is somewhat of a rift between interviewer and interviewee. It makes for very interesting discussions. I think that is the interview I enjoyed the most, but to be honest, I got so much out of each and every one of them that I can only be grateful they were published in English.

I truly loved reading this and I am looking forward to going back to reading some of his poetry and works.

7 out of 7 stars

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