Mourid Barghouti (مريد البرغوثي) died in Amman on Sunday 14th February, and is survived by his and Radwa Ashour’s son Tamim, to whom I offer my love and heartfelt condolences.
Mourid made this series of humble recordings between June and September 2020, reading a range of his poems in their own language. I was struck by each of them as they appeared, appreciating them for what they are, recognising many but more than that recognising the remarkable man, poet and memoirist in the voice and many gestures that were so very Mourid.
I am not offering any analysis! I am as numb in the wake of this as a dumb black heart emoji. But these are comforting me, and they may comfort you too. It did occur to me that making these gifts in this way might express or signal a consciousness of mortality. Perhaps COVID (in general) was* enough for such an appreciation to develop, as I concluded. In any case, Mourid’s ‘gifts’; the calm, generous, dignity that was so characteristic of someone who became a dear friend and elder over the last fifteen or sixteen years, ‘fooled’ me (somewhere between waving and drowning myself in those months). They came to an end just before he received a terminal diagnosis of lung cancer in November 2020.
Revisit and appreciate that dignity, the precision and warmth of these indelible words and images in the inimitable voice of their maker. Enjoy their ongoingness…
I am sorry that I don’t know how to extract or export these to make for a more friendly encounter, but then again they are not mine!
Mourid Barghouti’s first volume of memoir, I Saw Ramallah, is a classic of the genre and a uniquely clear-eyed account of returning home after 30 years of serial expulsion. Barghouti is also the poet of displacement in general as well as its specific Palestinian form. In between the first and this second volume of memoir came Midnight & Other Poems – a first selection from many volumes of his poetry.
I Saw Ramallah wove a life of enforced absences into a moment of return to that city and the author’s home village of Deir Ghassanah in 1996, with prose of poetic concision. It ended with Barghouti recrossing an indelibly memorialised bridge over the Jordan river to collect a permit for his son Tamim, so they could return together. “He will see it. He will see me in it, and we shall ask all the questions after that.”
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…