Internationally recognized for his poetry of strong affection for a lost homeland. Darwish has become the main voice for the Palestinian struggle for independence. His poetry is simple in terms of style and vocabulary, but uses everyday words for strong and effective expressions and intense feelings.
A central image to his early poetry has been the resistant hero, who never gives in and keeps up the fight in a struggle for freedom and independence for the Palestinian people.
But with the disappointment he and all other Palestinians experienced from the expulsion of the PLO from Beirut in 1982, his orientation shifted, and became more oriented towards the reality of powerlessness which even the resilient hero can exhibit. What his poetry then reflected was the importance of international politics.
Mahmud Darwish was born into a landowning Sunni Muslim family in the village of Barweh in the Galilee, which was razed to the ground by the Israelis in 1948. Darwish's family were forced to leave their home town after it was declared part of the new state of Israel. In 1949: Darwish' family returned to what now is Israel, settling in the village of Dayru l-Assad.
Early in life, Darwish became politically active through his poetry and involvement in the Israeli Communist Party, Rakah. He spent a period as the editor of Rakah's newspaper, Al-Ittihad (Unity). Darwish's political advocacy brought him a great deal of negative Israeli attention, which included harassment and house arrest. Finally, in 1971, after years of hardship, Darwish left Israel 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”. By this time, he had established and upheld an outstanding reputation as one of the leading poets of the resistance. Many of his poems have been converted to music in order to fuel the Palestinian defiance. The Arab population and the international community honor his poetic achievements. Among his accomplishments is the 1969 Lotus Prize , the Ibn Sina Prize in 82 and the Lenin Peace Prize in 83.
In 1987, Darwish is elected to the PLO executive but later in 1993 he resigns in opposition to the Oslo Agreement.
He was also the director of the Palestinian Research Center. He lived in exile between Beirut and Paris until his return in 1996 to Ramallah, Palestine.
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. He published his book of poetry "Stage of Siege" in 2002. 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. Mahmound Darwish is an honorary member of the Sakakini Centre.
Some selected works by
the author are:
1961: Bird without wings (poetry)
1964: Lover from Palestine (poetry)
1964: Olive leaves (poetry)
1994: Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone? (poetry)
1998:Bed of the Stranger
2002: State of Siege
Darwish's State of Siege was our
reader's club selection for April 2003. More information on the author
and his work in Arabic, French and English can be found at:
Readers Club April 2003 Page