Mahmoud Darwish, the "National Poet" of Palestine, died yesterday. Though this will likely go virtually unnoticed in the West, his loss will be deeply felt in the Middle East. (His elegant website barely loads this morning, probably because the server is struggling to keep up with demand.)
Darwish reportedly was devastated by the conflict that broke out last year between Hamas and Fatah, and was "not optimistic" about the prospects for the nation into which he was born, 73 years ago. The report makes sense: certainly in his poetry, Darwish identifies himself so completely with Palestine that it’s difficult to find any separation between man and nation. Here, for example, from In Palestine:
So who am I?
I am no I in ascension’s presence. But I
think to myself: Alone, the prophet Mohammad
spoke classical Arabic. “And then what?”
Then what? A woman soldier shouted:
Is that you again? Didn’t I kill you?
I said: You killed me . . . and I forgot, like you, to die.