on mourid barghouti’s i was born there, i was born here due 7 Nov in UK

Deir Ghassanah from the restored ‘ruins of al Khawas’ tomb & masjid [Ph. G Mannes-Abbott 2010]

The much anticipated arrival in English of a second volume of Mourid Barghouti’s memoirs is now close enough to touch… Indeed, I have it here in my happy fingers. My efforts to try to read it in Arabic, with only a basic grasp of the language, met an honourable end without ever getting close to the uniquely precise presence of its author in his words…

Publication of I Was Born There, I was Born Here is November 7th and Mourid will be appearing at Oxford University, the Bristol Festival of Ideas, and London’s Southbank Centre. I’m reserving comment on the book for reasons that will become clear, but if you’ve never seen Mourid’s words come to life in his voice right in front of you then waste no time in getting hold of a seat or a ticket at these events…

So to the book-object itself [the cover of which shows the ruined tomb/mas’jid of al Khawas -from the hill where Yaffa is visible on the horizon] -a perfect and therefore elegant companion to the first Bloomsbury edition of I Saw Ramallah. The latter is so much a classic of its kind that a second volume, however much longed-for after reading the first, seems almost indecent… I can tell you that it has a short introduction by John Berger which is as good -incisive and love-saturated- a piece of writing that he’s ever written.

Beyond that, since I’m writing about it for The Independent, I cannot go. In between volumes I have been to Ramallah myself, explored the entire District by foot -discovering its limits in their abysmal promiscuity- and brought home a copy of this same book in Arabic. More than that, I’ve taken on the definitively aporetic matter of trying to ‘write’ it; find words for the place in this time which capture it for you and so ‘liberates’ it from occupied space -if not Occupation- to some degree…

Those at least are/were my pretensions and you can soon judge how badly I misjudged it when In Ramallah, Running appears in late February, 2012. Appearing alongside my long series of  ‘e.things’ in IR,R, is a slither from Adania Shibli’s next novel, while an earlier novel of hers is also about to leap into English. We are All Equally Far from Love is available during November from its US publisher here, too.

Meanwhile, I can confide in you that no questions of pretension need trouble any reader of I was Born There, I was Born Here! Beyond that, all I will say is that it’s not a bad ‘attempt’, not bad at all…

[An image of al Khawas from 2007 here]

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