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The Political Darwīsh

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“… In Defense of Little Differences”

image of Journal of Arabic Literature

Maḥmūd Darwīsh spent his life as a poet, a public intellectual, and a politician working “in defense of little differences,” and he is often quoted by Palestinian compatriots to explain their seemingly inexplicable history. After the Nakbah of 1948—the rules of engagement in flux, and Palestinians subject to harsh colonial conditions—Eden, Troy, al-Andalus, and Exodus became not only terrains of metaphor and political rhetoric in Darwīsh’s poetic lexica, but also fleeting heterotopias, heavily employed in his public intellectualism in constructing the phraseme of “little differences.” This article is not a critical reading of Darwīsh’s poetry but rather of his prose texts, and argues that the would-be dichotomy between aesthetics and politics was mediated by Darwīsh through the “little differences” between the roles of poetry and prose in defending national and universal causes; and the “little differences” that make up Palestine’s relation to myth and history. Triumph and defeat come to mean through Troy as a metaphor for Palestine, the fall of al-Andalus standing in for Palestine’s fall to Euro-Zionist colonial projects, the location of the Palestinian ever on the periphery of modern Jewish ethics, ever re-enacting Biblical scenes. Reading the polemics of such cultural landscapes and political geographies, this article maps Darwīsh’s vision for justice in historic Palestine and its diaspora.

Affiliations: 1: Birzeit University Palestine


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