A River Dies of Thirst: A Diary: (A Diary) Paperback – 3 Aug 2009
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Darwish has given expression to his people s ordinary longings and desires. --New York Times
The book begins with a series of pieces addressing the suffering in Gaza, West Bank and Lebanon in the summer of 2006, with a mixture of satire and gravity: "heroism too has its sell-by date" and "the house as casualty is also mass murder". When Darwish asks himself about hope he "construct[s] a mirage" and goes on searching "in his desk drawers for the person he was before asking this question". "Hope is not the opposite of despair," he writes. "It is a talent." And "suffering is not a talent" but a test of it. And indifference is "one aspect of hope". Throughout the book Darwish delights in prose narratives or poem fragments that came to him between sleep and wakefulness, dream and imagination. These diaries are also writings about writing, and we stroll gentlywith him on his private walks, where his imagination becomes one of his other selves, "a faithful hunting dog", as young girls throw pistachios at him and call him "uncle". While "he sees himself as absent . . . to lighten the burden of the place," he observes his surroundings with a revelatory clarity: clouds are a silk shawl caught in the branches of a tree, or like soap bubbles in the kitchen sink that dissolve into forgotten words. A "rustling" is "a feeling searching for someone to feel it". And "jasmine is a message of longing from nobody to nobody." A River Dies of Thirst lures its translator's imagination into several possibilities of form and lyric as testament to the mastery Darwish possessed in Arabic. Catherine Cobham's translations sway delicately between mystery and clarity, giving a rendition of the master's voice that should impress both those reading Darwish's work for the first time and those who are already familiar with it. --Fady Joudah The Guardian Review Saturday 12th September 2009
About the Author
Mahmoud Darwish (1942-2008) was born in the village of al-Birweh in Galilee, Palestine. His family fled to Lebanon in 1948 when the Israeli Army destroyed their village. He has written over twenty books of poetry and several books of essays, including Memory for Forgetfulness: August, Beirut, 1982. He has won the Lenin Peace Prize, the Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom, the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres from France and the Prince Claus Award from the Netherlands.