Almond Blossoms and Beyond
Mahmoud Darwish; translated by Mohammad Shaheen
published 2009 • 6” x 9” • 95 pages
"Internationally recognized Palestinian poet Darwish, who died in 2008, writes lyric poems about uprootedness, exile, love, and the idea of death, which seems to throb between his lines: 'Death has strayed and missed you/ in the crowds...he put off his visit.' In what is likely his last collection, (following the recent 'If I Were Another'), Darwish writes in a clear, simple, and yet elusive language charged with sharp visual images and vibrant musical beats ('Orange-like, the sun enters the sea/ the orange is a water lamp on cold trees'). A particular strength is his building on theme words that recur throughout, allowing his text to take different shapes and structures. Though Darwish is a cultural icon among his people who has contributed much to shaping the Palestinian identity and consciousness, this work showcases his ability to recharge his language and reach for universal themes. VERDICT Darwish’s transformative language delights"
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NEW IN PAPERBACK, FALL 2010
The first English translation of recent poetry by the late Mahmoud Darwish, the most important Palestinian contemporary poet
“If I die before you, I leave you the impossible.”
—Mahmoud Darwish, in “Exile”
“A brilliant poet—certainly the most gifted of his generation in the Arab world.”
Almond Blossoms and Beyond is one of the last collections of poetry that Mahmoud Darwish left to the world. Composed of brief lyric poems and the magnificent sustained Exile cycle, Almond Blossoms holds an important place in Darwish’s unparalleled oeuvre. It distills his late style, in which, though the specter of death looms and weddings turn to funerals, he threads the pulses and fragilities and beauties of life into the lines of his poems. Their liveliness is his own response to the collection’s final call to bid “Farewell / Farewell, to the poetry of pain.”
Mahmoud Darwish, born in 1941 in the village of al-Birweh, Palestine, was the author of over two dozen volumes of poetry and prose. When he died in the summer of 2008, he was mourned throughout the world as a voice of the Palestinian people—author of their official declaration of independence and, most importantly, a poet of the highest invention and beauty.
Mohammad Shaheen holds a PhD in English literature from Cambridge University. He is professor of English at the University of Jordan and the author of many books, including E.M. Forster and the Politics of Imperialism.
"'Almond Blossoms and Beyond', first published in Arabic in 2005 and newly translated by Mohammad Shaheen,[...is] a complex counterpoint between the personal and the political, the poetic and the poetological (poetry about poetry), the reflective and the polemical, the real and the surreal. These shifts are rapid but graceful, a grace that is well captured by Shaheen's translations. ...'Almond Blossoms and Beyond' is ...a carefully, almost symmetrically structured collection...beautifully produced." "The translator, Mohammad Shaheen, professor of English at the University of Jordan, has provided a concise, learned and useful introduction to the poet, his biography and the main lineaments of his work....Any critical treatment of a translation is tasked with evaluating what we might call its efficacy: does it transmit something of the feel, tone and melody of the original? ...Are poetic motifs approximated through a close rendering? In responding to questions such as these, ... the work of the translator is to be commended: the translations succeed in telegraphing both the emotional register and euphonies of the original. The translation is nuanced, sensitive and the stuff of deft hands; Shaheen is attentive to the consequences of discursive register and word choice in both the original text and the target language. At times, the translator preserves an original item for the English language reader and provides an explanatory footnote, ...These are constructive choices, in the final analysis, that ensure that the translation flows smoothly in the target language while still bearing something of the content that an Arabic-language reader would know....Shaheen’s translation stands as an invaluable critical and literary contribution. Its publication promises to expand Darwish’s readership, as well as our discussions of the legacy of Darwish’s poetry."
—Journal of Arabic Literature
"'Almond Blossoms and Beyond' comprises many of the last poems of the internationally acclaimed Mahmoud Darwish...Celebratory contemplations on the passage of time, the changing of seasons, weddings, funerals, and nature in the earlier sections employ a charming, conversational voice that floats on the surface of layered meanings. The meditations on exile in the later sections are philosophical journeys that reflect an even greater sensitivity to the imminence of death and recount conversations either with himself or an imagined other."
" Shaheen's [tranlations] are so much less cluttered, so much more moving..."
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