The bookseller of Baghdad

Chip Rossetti has a lovely profile of one Baghdad's most prominent booksellers in the trade website Publishing Perspectives:
In a region where import restrictions and government censors made the free flow of books a rarity, and in an era before the internet, Qasim Al-Rajab’s devotion to hunting down books and making them available earned him the nickname of shaykh al-kutubiyyin (the shaykh of booksellers.) Loyal customers also dubbed him al-Fihrist-”the Index” — partly for his prodigious memory and partly in homage to a famous 10th-century Baghdad bookseller, Ibn Nadim, who wrote a well-known bibliography of the same title. Between 1960 and 1972, he also published a regular journal-cum-catalogue, al-Maktaba (The Library), which featured articles and announcements about major new books published elsewhere in the world. Qasim Al-Rajab also launched a project of reprinting editions of medieval Arabic texts. That meant getting hold of rare manuscripts in academic libraries in places as far as London, Leipzig and Leiden and then publish modern editions in Beirut, India and Pakistan, where printing costs were cheaper. He would also occasionally print them, as well in Iran, which was known then for its good printing technology and for having state-of-the-art presses. In all, he published around 200 books, including editions of 1001 Nights and medieval works of Arabic travel literature.
This is part two, on the current situation:
Then came the American invasion in 2003. With the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, books began to be imported into Iraq again, but that new freedom came with a price: “People were importing certain types of books and getting killed for it. At the time, mainly in 2004 and 2005, people were eager to get books that had been banned in the time of Saddam Hussein.” The rising sectarian violence was reflected in the importation of inflammatory literature — both Shi’ite and Sunni — into Iraq. “Some dealers approached importers from Iran, and they introduced to the market very extreme kinds of books. On the other hand, other booksellers were bringing in books from Saudi Arabia — extremist literature on the other side.” The violence and sectarianism were a far cry from the bookselling environment Qasim Al-Rajab had once known: “In his time, my grandfather would sell books by Christians, Jews, Sunnis, Shia. Bookselling then was very different from the sectarian situation post-war,” said Ibrahim.
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Links for 08.09.09 to 08.13.09

Moises Naim -- A New Recipe for Autocrats Around The World - washingtonpost.com | Some good stuff there, but he goes to easy on Mossad and the CIA - they would not be scapegoats if it wasn't sometimes true! The Groping Elephant in the Room: Sexual Harassment in the Arab World « the long slumber | More from The Long Slumber on sexual harassment in the Arab word - recommended, thought-provoking reading. شارك - حوار مفتوح لشباب مصر مع جمال مبارك | Tell me this man is not running for president... Fiji Water: Spin the Bottle | Mother Jones | Nothing to do with the Middle East, but outrageous. BBC NEWS | Middle East | Frustrated dreams of young Egyptians | Living in the City of the Dead: "I dream of leaving this place. One day we will buy a new home and pretend we have lived there all our lives." Get Good at Arabic « MediaShack | Good tips on picking up the lingo - this method really works although it means you must be disciplined and dedicated (and have no other job, ideally). Even if it might seem a tiny bit exploitative. 'Just World News' with Helena Cobban: Agha, Malley, and some other ideas | Helena Cobban's critique of the Malley/Agha op-ed, saying it's quite banal. Well yes and no: it's banal because experts and many Israelis and Palestinians have known it for a long time (that it's about 1948), but it's still important to reiterate the point because politicians (in Israel/Palestine, among the two diasporas and among foreigners) still pretend otherwise. Op-Ed Contributors - The Two-State Solution Doesn’t Solve Anything - NYTimes.com | Malley and Agha say it's all about 1948: "For years, virtually all attention has been focused on the question of a future Palestinian state, its borders and powers. As Israelis make plain by talking about the imperative of a Jewish state, and as Palestinians highlight when they evoke the refugees’ rights, the heart of the matter is not necessarily how to define a state of Palestine. It is, as in a sense it always has been, how to define the state of Israel." Les ministres israéliens divisés sur la libération de Marwan Barghouti - Proche-Orient - Le Monde.fr | Israelis pols split about whether or not to free Marwan Barghouti. Dar Al Hayat - Ayoon Wa Azan (Why Are Men Allowed to Wear Dresses?) | Jihad al-Khazen suggests (jokingly?) that Gulf Arabs buy up the Observer, which is shutting down (alas, although perhaps they shouldn't have spent so much money on stupid lifestyle supplements and Nigella Lawson pageantry.) Will the leader of Lebanon's Druze really form an alliance with Hezbollah? - By Lee Smith - Slate Magazine | Weird Slate story in whcih Walid Jumblatt is celebrated as hero, disowns his old friends, and they react: "His former American friends are not amused. "I don't believe for a minute that he's sorry he met with the dreaded neocons, and I'm sorry he feels somehow compelled to say that," said Elliott Abrams, the Bush administration's deputy national security adviser for global democracy strategy. "I just hope he keeps sending all of us that nice wine from the Bekaa."" Three soldiers, Al-Qaeda leader killed in Yemeni clashes - AL SHORFA | Note that this site is funded by US Central Command. I don't know much about Yemen, but isn't it rather odd to refer to the insurgents in Yemen to al-Qaeda (as opposed to people motivated by local grievances, as a recent International Crisis Group report argued)? Le Figaro - International : Mauritanie : attentat suicidedevant l'ambassade de France | Suicide bombing outside French embassy in Mauritania.
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Links for 08.09.09 to 08.12.09

Get Good at Arabic « MediaShack | Good tips on picking up the lingo - this method really works although it means you must be disciplined and dedicated (and have no other job, ideally). Even if it might seem a tiny bit exploitative. 'Just World News' with Helena Cobban: Agha, Malley, and some other ideas | Helena Cobban's critique of the Malley/Agha op-ed, saying it's quite banal. Well yes and no: it's banal because experts and many Israelis and Palestinians have known it for a long time (that it's about 1948), but it's still important to reiterate the point because politicians (in Israel/Palestine, among the two diasporas and among foreigners) still pretend otherwise. Op-Ed Contributors - The Two-State Solution Doesn’t Solve Anything - NYTimes.com | Malley and Agha say it's all about 1948: "For years, virtually all attention has been focused on the question of a future Palestinian state, its borders and powers. As Israelis make plain by talking about the imperative of a Jewish state, and as Palestinians highlight when they evoke the refugees’ rights, the heart of the matter is not necessarily how to define a state of Palestine. It is, as in a sense it always has been, how to define the state of Israel." Les ministres israéliens divisés sur la libération de Marwan Barghouti - Proche-Orient - Le Monde.fr | Israelis pols split about whether or not to free Marwan Barghouti. Dar Al Hayat - Ayoon Wa Azan (Why Are Men Allowed to Wear Dresses?) | Jihad al-Khazen suggests (jokingly?) that Gulf Arabs buy up the Observer, which is shutting down (alas, although perhaps they shouldn't have spent so much money on stupid lifestyle supplements and Nigella Lawson pageantry.) Will the leader of Lebanon's Druze really form an alliance with Hezbollah? - By Lee Smith - Slate Magazine | Weird Slate story in whcih Walid Jumblatt is celebrated as hero, disowns his old friends, and they react: "His former American friends are not amused. "I don't believe for a minute that he's sorry he met with the dreaded neocons, and I'm sorry he feels somehow compelled to say that," said Elliott Abrams, the Bush administration's deputy national security adviser for global democracy strategy. "I just hope he keeps sending all of us that nice wine from the Bekaa."" Three soldiers, Al-Qaeda leader killed in Yemeni clashes - AL SHORFA | Note that this site is funded by US Central Command. I don't know much about Yemen, but isn't it rather odd to refer to the insurgents in Yemen to al-Qaeda (as opposed to people motivated by local grievances, as a recent International Crisis Group report argued)? Le Figaro - International : Mauritanie : attentat suicidedevant l'ambassade de France | Suicide bombing outside French embassy in Mauritania.
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Links for 08.08.09 to 08.09.09

Middle East Report Online: Rachel Corrie in Palestine…and in San Francisco | Joel Beinin on the hysterical reaction to the screening of French-Israeli filmmaker Simone Bitton's film on Rachel Corrie at the San Francisco Film Festival. Israeli agents to screen judges before appointment - Middle East, World - The Independent | Israel - just another Middle Eastern autocracy: "Israel's internal security service has been given a de facto veto over the appointment of judges in an unprecedented decision that has the country's embattled liberals up in arms. The move by the Judges Selection Committee on Friday is likely to make it harder for members of Israel's Arab minority and others with views that are not mainstream to become judges, according to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (Acri)." Obama's letter to Assad .... | FLC: "According to the Lebanese daily Al Akhbar, President Obama heeded a "french advice" and transferred the Lebanon-Syria file (s) to the White House, away from the tractions and the oversight of such officials as Jeffrey Feltman... Moreover, and always according to Al Akhbar, a senior Arab diplomat in Beirut said that President Obama sent a "three pages letter" to President Assad asking him to "turn a new page in the bilateral relations between the US and Syria" ... and outlining ways to move forward. " Typhoid outbreak in Egypt | In Qaloubiya governorate, due to water sanitation issues. There are increasing water sanitation and distribution problems in Egypt, a sign that the government is not sufficiently investing in infrastructure. Central Bank: Egypt's remittances drop 26 percent (AP via Yahoo! Finance) | The crisis hits. Al-Ahram Weekly | Living | Obituary: Fayza Hassan, 1938-2009: Life interrupted | Very sad to hear about the death of this wonderful writer. Egypt's National Security Threatened By Sorcery: Psychiatrist | Mountain = molehill. EGYPT: Anwar Sadat's daughter sues information minister over Hollywood movie | Babylon & Beyond | Los Angeles Times | Because of the film "I love you, man." Which isn't very good anyway (and the dog does not resemble Sadat). Reptile wreaks havoc on Cairo-bound flight | Funny: "A “small crocodile” running up and down the aisle of a Cairo-bound flight recently sent passengers into a frenzy. No one claimed ownership of the creature, which turned out to be a lizard." Israeli settlement freeze 'not enough for Saudis' (AFP) | I almost hate to praise Saudi Arabia, but they have this right.
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Links for 08.06.09 to 08.08.09

Informed Comment: Statement on Iran by Engaged Scholars | It starts: "If we speak out against the threat of force against Iran (regarding the nuclear conflict) and warn against a military strike, we cannot be silent on the use of force in Iran itself against its own civil society. For solidarity with the civil society and a peaceful order in the region constitute the primary concern of our efforts. If we condemn foreign sanctions against the Iranian people, we deplore all the more domestic sanctions directed at peaceful demonstrators, journalists, trade unionists, professors, students and others. Thereby the government deprives itself from the domestic basis needed against foreign threats." Sex and the Saudi: one man riles a nation - Middle East, World - The Independent | "In this ultra-conservative kingdom, where husbands and wives rarely even kiss in public, many Saudis have been scandalised by a compatriot who spoke frankly about sex on satellite TV, showing off erotic toys and fantasising about joining the mile-high club." The silly man might now be lashed. Wily Walid | Walid Jumblatt, after saying he might leave M14, says he just thinks it should change its slogans. Is there anything more to M14 (or M8 for that matter) than slogans? In any case too many people focus on the significance of Jumblatt leaving. He was probably renegotiating his participation in M14 without really intending to leave, and was trying to raise his price. ‘Atlantic’ concedes the groundbreaking impact of a piece it killed | Good post on The Atlantic miserably dishonest coverage of the Israel/Palestine issue. Le Quotidien d’Algérie, le journal de l’éveil algérien - De violents affrontements entre Chinois et Algériens à Bab Ezzouar | Riots between Chinese laborers and Algerians. Popularity contest - The National Newspaper | On the false hope that Iran's political turmoil will change Arab public opinion about resistance.
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Links for 08.04.09 to 08.06.09

Iran is the problem, not settlements: US lawmaker (AFP) | Slimy Republican sings from Bibi's songbook. Most Taliban fighters 'could switch' | From Windows to Mac? Where Have All the Palestinian Moderates Gone? | Read this obscene article by Israel lobby stooge David Schenker (and many others like it from WINEP): it makes a compelling argument that people from this institution should never be regarded as serious analysts or scholars, but as propagandists. The guy talks about Fatah reserving the right to armed resistannce - i.e. self-defense from a brutal occupation - but never once mentions occupation. Whither Fateh? | Palestine | On the inner rifts of the Palestinian faction - quite good. Middle East Democracy (404 Not Found) | Priceless. Al-Ahram Weekly | Focus | Business interests | Hossam Tammam on the Muslim Brothers' economic policy.
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A giant sexless story-telling statue?!?

The designers plan to install speakers throughout the park, allowing people to tune in to the giant as he plows through recordings of traditional stories and legends. For those who might find the sight distressing, the statue would sport recreational rooms and a library located at the base in the Giant’s ankles. One wonders whether the architects took the metaphor “to study at someone’s feet” a little too seriously. In a city almost exclusively dominated by state of the art, air-conditioned phalluses, such a statue would not only be sexless, but be equipped with a series of elevators that would transport one through parts of the body where few Fundamentalists dare to tread, while from its viewing deck, situated in the Giant’s hollowed-out cranium, one would be able to enjoy Dubai’s skyline as it stretched out to where neon lights spider over the rust-colored dunes in the distance.
Only in Dubai. And even there, I find it hard to believe that this is actually going to be carried out (the author does not specify a construction company or a timeline, and a cursory Arabic google search turned up no information about the project). In any case, an interesting and idionsyncratic piece, which also includes a discussion of the popular poetry contests sponsored by Emirati sheikhs--although some of the author's claims (about the relationship of Arabs to the word and to magic, for example) struck me as a little broad and a little off.
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Links for 08.04.09

Brotherhood on the defensive in Egypt - The National Newspaper | On the alleged "deal" being brokered between the Muslim Brothers and the Egyptian regime. 'Just World News' with Helena Cobban: Countdown to Fateh conference? | Cobban: "Abbas's decision to hold the conference in the Israeli-controlled West Bank gives Israel a de-facto veto over who attends, and thus wrecks the idea that the conference will produce any authentic or legitimate expression of an independent Palestinian nationalist will." Hamas Chief Outlines Terms for Talks on Arab-Israeli Peace - WSJ.com | Yet again, Hamas speaks in favor of 67 lines: "We along with other Palestinian factions in consensus agreed upon accepting a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines," Mr. Meshaal said. This is the national program. This is our program. This is a position we stand by and respect." In kingdom, Saudi prince's coup 'fails' | Something rather odd in that after months of Bandar not being seen around (apparently), this Iranian press agency is the only one reporting on an alleged coup Bandar would have led. Chávez activists storm TV station | Chavez, the Mubarak / Ben Ali / Muhammad VI of South America.
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Links for 08.04.09

AFP: Maroc : Mohammed VI très populaire, selon un sondage interdit dans son pays | Great headline - "Morocco: Muhammad VI very popular, according to poll banned in his country." FT.com / Middle East / Economy - Egypt’s cotton kingdom cut down to size | Good story on Egyptian textile industry: "Egypt is likely this year to produce its smallest cotton crop in a century." FT.com / Comment / Editorial - The cost of Arab peace concessions | Bravo FT: "In 1992-96, at the height of the peace process, Israel reaped a peace dividend without concluding a peace. Diplomatic recognition of Israel doubled, from 85 to 161 countries, exports doubled and foreign investment increased sixfold. Per capita income in the occupied territories fell in the same period by more than a third, while the number of settlers expanded by half. A broad-looking avenue led quickly to a road-block. The Arabs have not forgotten, and Mr Obama will have to get more than a settlement freeze out of Israel to lure them down that road again." Newsweek Steps Up Effort to Free Reporter in Iran - NYTimes.com | On Maziar Bahari's detention in Iran. Venezuela : Chavez suspend 34 médias d'opposition | Hugo Chavez bans 34 independent media outlets. In the Sahara, a Film Festival Complete With Camels - NYTimes.com | On a film festival in Sahrawi refugee camps. Blog: Middle East Diary | Hannah is back. Hugh Miles and CCTV Arabic | The author of a book on al-Jazeera on the new Chinese channel. 'VALIS and Later Novels,' by Philip K. Dick | VALIS, which I am now reading, enters Library of America. Someone should write a PKD-ish novel set in the Arab world. Then again, I've always found Cairo highly reminiscent of the world of Bladerunner. 10,000 Uighur disappear in China, U.S. silent | Spero News | Shocking link from Angry Arab, although I'm not sure about the source - this site has a lot of religious agit-prop. Liam Stack, Greek Club Civil War, and Developing Developments | Boi boi Liam...
Read More

Links for 08.03.09 to 08.04.09

In the Sahara, a Film Festival Complete With Camels - NYTimes.com | On a film festival in Sahrawi refugee camps. Blog: Middle East Diary | Hannah is back. Hugh Miles and CCTV Arabic | The author of a book on al-Jazeera on the new Chinese channel. 'VALIS and Later Novels,' by Philip K. Dick | VALIS, which I am now reading, enters Library of America. Someone should write a PKD-ish novel set in the Arab world. Then again, I've always found Cairo highly reminiscent of the world of Bladerunner. 10,000 Uighur disappear in China, U.S. silent | Spero News | Shocking link from Angry Arab, although I'm not sure about the source - this site has a lot of religious agit-prop. 500 Internal Server Error | 500 Internal Server Error Liam Stack, Greek Club Civil War, and Developing Developments | Boi boi Liam...
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Links for 08.02.09 to 08.03.09

Liam Stack, Greek Club Civil War, and Developing Developments | Boi boi Liam... Al-Maqdisi’s Online Library of Translated Jihadi Material | Get your jihadi agit-prop in translation... Fatah to reject Israel as Jewish state at congress: document (AFP) | Rightly so. 50 Palestinians evicted from their Jerusalem homes (AP) | "AP - Israeli police evicted two Palestinian families in east Jerusalem on Sunday, then allowed Jewish settlers to move into their homes, drawing criticism from Palestinians, the United Nations and the State Department." Criticism? Cut off their funding! Jewish Tribune - Pepe Le Pew makes aliyah and protects the Jews | Columnist in Canada's Jewish tribune, on protests by International Solidarity Movement for Palestine against Israel's wall: "I personally would recommend use of live ammo on the ‘anarchists'". [Thanks, Saeed]
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Poetry from Nazareth

taha3 After reading an excerpt from Adina Hoffman's biography of the Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali, I've put her wonderfully titled work on my reading list. Here's a taste: 
Taha was born and grew up in Saffuriyya, a Galilee village that Israel destroyed in the wake of the 1948 war, and most of his poems well up from the hard ground of that setting. Cunningly combining a plain-spoken register with an idiosyncratic (sometimes biting, sometimes mournful) storytelling sense, these are quietly sophisticated lyrics, many of them populated by “simple” characters like the trusting and doomed peasant-everyman Abd el Hadi. These poems are engaged and political in the deepest sense – the word, after all, comes from the Greek politikos, “of a citizen” – though they eschew the direct approach to the so-called Struggle that is the hallmark of the “poetry of resistance” written by many of Taha’s peers and by the next, most acclaimed generation of Palestinian poets. Younger than Taha, Mahmoud Darwish and Samih al Qasim, for instance, began to write much earlier and came to widespread fame almost as soon as they did. Taha has often likened his own poetic method to what he calls in English “bill-i-ar-des”: the word has four syllables when he says it. “You aim over here – ” a long, gnarled, yet delicately mottled farmer’s finger points to the right – “to strike over there.” The finger bends sharply to the left.
Then a recent discussion lead a good friend to send me some links to translations of Ali's work, and it is so excellent I thought I'd share--Arabic and English version are after the jump. Here's hoping that a full collection of his poems is translated into English soon. (And thanks, Mandy). 

لقــاء فــي مطــار محايــد

شعــر: طــه محمــد علــي

 

سألتني..

وكنا من ضُحى النبعِ

مرة...

عائديْْنْ

"ماذا  تكره..

ومن تُحِب؟!”

فأجبتُكِ

من خَلفِ أهدابِ الفُجاءة

ودمي

يُسرعُ ويُسرعْ

كظل سحابِة الزُرْزُورْ:

"اكرهُ الرحيلَ...

أحبُّ النبعَ والدربَ

واعبُدُ الضُحى!”

فَضَحِكْتِ..

فأزهرَ لوز

وشدَتْ في الايكِ أسرابُ العنادِلْ!

 

 

سؤآلٌ!:

عُمرُه الآن عقودٌ أربعةْ

يا للْجواب من السؤالْ

وجوابٌ:

عُمرُه عُمرُ رحيلك

يا لَلْسؤآلِ من الجوابْ.

واليومَ:

يا للْمُحالْ!

ها نحن في مطارٍ مُحايِِدْ..

على شفا صُدفةٍ

نَلتَقي!

وّيحيْ...؟!

نلتقي...؟!

وها أنتِ

تُعيدين السؤالْ؟!

يا لَلْمُحالِ من المُحالِْ!

 

عَرَفْتُكِ!

ولم تعرفيني.

"أهذا أنتَ؟!”

ولم تُصَدِّقي.

وفجأة..

انفجرتِ تسألين:

"إن كنتَ أنتَ أنتَ

فماذا تكره

ومن تُحبْ؟!”

فأجتبكِ

ودمي

يغادرُ الشُرفةْ..

يُسْرعُ ويُسْرعُ

كظلِّ سحابةِ الزُرْوُرْ:

"أكره الرحيلَ..

أُحبُّ النبعَ والدربَ

وأعبُدُ الضحى"

فبكيتِ..

فاطرقت ورُودً.

وتعثرتْ بحرير حُرقتِها حَمائِمْ!

 

MEETING AT AN AIRPORT  You asked me once, on our way back from the midmorning trip to the spring: "What do you hate, and who do you love?" And I answered, from behind the eyelashes of my surprise, my blood rushing like the shadow cast by a cloud of starlings: "I hate departure... I love the spring and the path to the spring, and I worship the middle hours of morning." And you laughed... and the almond tree blossomed and the thicket grew loud with nightingales. ...A question now four decades old: I salute that question's answer; and an answer, as old as your departure; I salute that answer's question... ...And today, it's preposterous, here we are at a friendly airport by the slimmest of chances, and we meet. Ah, Lord! we meet. And here you are asking — again, it's absolutely preposterous — I recognized you but you didn't recognize me. "Is it you?!" But you wouldn't believe it. And suddenly you burst out and asked: "If you're really you, What do you hate and who do you love?!" And I answered — my blood fleeing the hall, rushing in me like the shadow cast by a cloud of starlings: "I hate departure, and I love the spring, and the path to the spring, and I worship the middle hours of morning." And you wept, and flowers bowed their heads, and doves in the silk of their sorrow stumbled. —Translated by Peter Cole

 

نْتِقام

أَحْياناً أَتَمَنّى أَن أُبارِزَ الشَّخْصَ الذي  قَتَلَ والِدي وَهَدَمَ بَيْتَنا فَشَرَّدَني في بِلادِ النّاسِ  الضَيِّقَةِ فَإِذا قَتَلَني أَكونُ قَدْ ارْتَحْتُ وَإِنْ أَجْهَزْتُ عَلَيْهِ أَكونُ قَدِ انْتَقَمْتُ!

لكِنْ… إِذا تَبَيَّنَ لي أَثْناءَ المُبارَزَةِ أَنَّ لِغَريمي أُمّاً  تَنْتَظِرُهُ أَوْ أَباً يَضَعُ كَفَّ يَمينِهِ عَلى مَكانِ القَلْبِ مِنْ صَدْرِهِ كُلَّما تَأَخَّرَ ابْنُهُ وَلَوْ رُبْعَ ساعَةٍ عَنْ مَوْعِدِ عَوْدَتِهِ فَأَنا عِنْدَها لَنْ أَقْتُلَهُ إِذا تَمَكَّنْتُ مِنْهُ

كَذلِكَ… أَنا لَنْ أَفْتِكَ بِهِ إِذا ظَهَرَ لي  أَنَّ لَهُ إِخْوَةٌ وَأَخَوات يُحِبّونَهُ وَيُديمونَ تَشَوُّقَهُمْ إِلَيْهِ. أَوْ إِذا كانَ لَهُ زَوْجَةٌ تُرَحِّبُ بِهِ وَأَطْفالٌ لا يُطيقونَ غِيابَهُ وَيَفْرَحونَ بِهَداياه. أَوْ إِذا كانَ لَهُ  أَصْدِقاءٌ أَوْ أَقارِبٌ جيرانٌ مَعارِفٌ زُمَلاءُ سِجْنٍ رِفاقُ مُسْتَشْفى أَوْ خُدَناءُ مَدْرَسَةٍ يَسْأَلونَ عَنْهُ وَيَحْرِصونَ عَلى تَحِيَّتِه

أَمَّا إِذا كانَ وَحيداً مَقْطوعاً مِنْ شَجَرَةٍ لا أَبٌ وَلا أُمٌّ لا إِخْوَةٌ وَلا أَخَواتٌ لا زَوْجَةٌ وَلا أَطْفالٌ بِدونِ أَصْدِقاءٍ وَلا أَقْرِباءٍ وَلا جيران مِنْ غَيْرِ مَعارِفٍ بِلا زُمَلاءٍ أَوْ رُفَقاءٍ أَوْ أَخْدان فَأَنا لَنْ أُضيفَ إِلى شَقاءِ وَحْدَتِهِ لا عَذابَ مَوْتٍ وَلا أَسى فَناءٍ بَلْ سَأَكْتَفي بِأَنْ أُغْمِضَ الطَّرْفَ عَنْهُ حينَ أَمُرُّ بِهِ في الطَّريقِ مُقْنِعاً نَفْسي بِأَنَّ الإِهْمالَ بِحَدِّ ذاتِهِ هُوَ أَيْضاً نَوْعٌ مِنْ أَنْواعِ الإِنْتِقامِ!

 

REVENGE translated by Peter Cole, Yahya Hijazi, and Gabriel Levin

At times ... I wish  I could meet in a duel  the man who killed my father  and razed our home,  expelling me into a narrow country.  And if he killed me,  I’d rest at last,  and if I were ready—  I would take my revenge!

*

But if it came to light,  when my rival appeared,  that he had a mother  waiting for him,  or a father who’d put his right hand over  the heart’s place in his chest  whenever his son was late  even by just a quarter-hour  for a meeting they’d set—  then I would not kill him,  even if I could.

*

Likewise ... I  would not murder him  if it were soon made clear  that he had a brother or sisters who loved him and constantly longed to see him.  Or if he had a wife to greet him and children who  couldn’t bear his absence  and whom his gifts would thrill. Or if he had  friends or companions,  neighbors he knew  or allies from prison  or a hospital room,  or classmates from his school … asking about him  and sending him regards.

*

But if he turned  out to be on his own—  cut off like a branch from a tree—  without a mother or father,  with neither a brother nor sister,  wifeless, without a child,  and without kin or neighbors or friends,  colleagues or companions,  then I’d add not a thing to his pain  within that aloneness—  not the torment of death,  and not the sorrow of passing away.  Instead I’d be content  to ignore him when I passed him by  on the street—as I  convinced myself  that paying him no attention  in itself was a kind of revenge.

Nazareth April 15, 2006

 

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