“And we are now of Clay and Light”: History, Myth, and the Palestinian National Memory in Mahmud Darwish’s Poetry

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Journal Title, Volume, Page: 
International Journal of Business, Humanities and Technology, Vol. 2 No. 3; May 2012
Year of Publication: 
AbdelKarim Daraghmah
The English Department, An-Najah National University P.O. Box 7 Nablus, Palestine
Current Affiliation: 
Department of English Language and Literature ,Faculty of humanities, An-Najah National University, Nablus, Palestine
Preferred Abstract (Original): 

Focusing on the work Mahmud Darwish wrote about two key historical moments, this paper explains the contemporary condition as a sign of the cultural and political anxieties that come with the transition in the Palestinian condition post-67. As we progress in time, we notice that the value of literary works shifts from traditional Marxist functionalism attuned to the national project, to a dialogic structure where the comfort zone of uniformity in national culture dramatically shrinks. In the early years of exile, Darwish participates in creating Palestinian national consciousness by pressing continuity with space and time. He embraces a vision of liberation anchored in history. In the 1990s, the lines that earlier defined the nation‟s boundary start to fade. The speaker is out of time and place. The utterance becomes a zone of tension symptomatic of the memory crisis Palestinians have been living since Oslo. Darwish situates his poetic voice on the border between myth and history- “clay and light”- a space that allows for rupture and continuity, at once inside and outside history. In this liminal territory, there is room for both remembering and forgetting. Parallel to the evolution in national politics and culture, there runs a corresponding transformation in the significance of imagery across time. To the extent that history is the unifying element of individual collections, imagery can be viewed as the unifying structure of the Darwish canon. The dominant symbols mark the continuation of themes and trends introduced in his early work. The father, mother, trees, birds, and tents appear anchored in solid history and possess no metaphysical qualities. As Darwish enters the realm of atemporal creative memory, symbols develop into a more floating and transient state less conditioned by history.

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