Victims of a Map is a beautiful bilingual anthology of Arabic poetry, including works of Mahmoud Darwish, Samih al Qasim and Adonis. The three of them are absolute stars in the world of (Arabic) poetry.
Alongside the original Arabic, this book includes thirteen poems by Darwish and a long work by Adonis written during the Beirut siege in 1982 – never before published. It’s really a labour of love and you can feel it in every page (lovely translation by Abudllah al-Udhari).
In The Desert (Diary of Beirut siege), great Syrian poet Adonis writes:
“My era tells me bluntly
you do not belong
I answer bluntly
I do not belong
I try to understand you
Now I am a shadow
Lost in the forest
Of a skull”
Most of the poetry by Adonis and Darwish and al-Qasim particularly, is written in a simple, everday language, but it speaks of the things greater than life – the hollowness of isolation, inevitability of “destiny”, solidity of “roots”, overwhelming hopelessness and permanent yearning for freedom.
In We are Entitled to Love the End of Autumn Darwish writes:
“We are entitled to love the end of autumn and ask:
Is there room for another autumn in the field to rest our bodies like coal?
An autumn lowering its leaves like gold. I wish we were fig leaves
I wish we were an abandoned plant
To witness the change of seasons. I wish we didn’t say goodbye
To the south of the eye so as to ask what
Our fathers had asked when they flew on the tip of the spear”
As it is written in the introduction of this book, the poems in Victims of a Map express not only the fate of Arabs, Syrians or Palestinians, but also of the humanity itself, trapped in a contemporary tragedy. The resistance poetry by Darwish, al-Qasim and Adonis, raises a local tragedy to a level of a universal one.
Just think about it – how many people are today, and in how many ways – victims of a map? In The Story of a City, al-Qasim writes:
“A blue city
dreamt of tourists
shopping day after day.
A dark city
scanning cafes with rifles.”
Read this beautiful little anthology! Like it is often the case with great poetry books – you’ll never finish reading it and it is worth all of your time.
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