Friday, November 20, 2009

In Search of Walid Masoud by Jabra Ibrahim Jabra

  The poor people were filling the roads and markets with movement and noise, and sleeping on the ground in their old ramshackle houses.  Like demons, they'd laugh, cry, and argue with each other.  They used to pray dutifully, and on feast days they'd come out into the streets and markets with cheerful faces, forgetting their poverty, and the tattered clothes they wore, and the mothers who struggled, laughed, and cried.  It was because of them that I wanted to change something that lay deep in the very core of life itself.  Whenever I conceived of the earth changing, in motion and assuming new hues, I'd feel a pleasant shudder deep down inside me.  It wasn't the way politicians bring about change (as I was to realize when I grew older), but that of rebels not yet familiar with theories and revolutionary planning and the kind of change such rebels aspire to has no connection at all with mere change in governmental systems and class conflict.

  It was notions of rebellion like this that prompted me to live in the way I must if I was to achieve the thing I was envisioning, however unclearly - which meant rejecting laws and customs that were found to be incompatible with this absolute love and float like an unknown bird in unknown heavens; and, within the setting of my isolation from everything, I would actually, paradoxically, be in touch with my love of everything.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A tomb for Boris Davidovich by Danilo Kis

(Perhaps it would have been wiser if I had chosen some other form of expression - an essay or a monograph - where I could use all these documents in the usual way. Two things, however, prevent me: the inappropriateness of citing actual oral testimony of reliable people as documentation; and my inability to forgo the pleasure of narration, which allows the author the deceptive idea that he is creating the world and thereby, as they say, changing it)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I Saw Ramallah by Mourid Barghouti

When we arrived at al-Sharafa Square I asked the driver if he knew the house of Dr. Hilmi al-Muhtadi. He said: "But he died years ago." "I know." (I did not know. But Abut Hazim had described his house to me as 'opposite the house of Dr. Hilmi al-Muhtadi.') I added: "I'm going to a house nearby." Abu Hazim used to live - like us - in the Lifdtawi Building, but he had moved. And in spite of the careful directions he had given me - and before me Mounif - I was so distracted and tense that I could not remember what he had said. And I had arrived in Ramallah after dark. The driver said: "I know his clinic at al-Manara, but I don't know the house." The lady sitting in the back asked me exactly which house I was looking for. "The house of Mughira al-Barghouti, Abut Hazim." She asked me the name of his wife. I said: "Fadwa al-Barghouti. She works in the the In'ash al-Usra Society." She said she knew her and had worked with her, but she did not know the house. Another passenger from the back seat said to the driver: "Try taking the next left then ask. I think the doctor's house is close to here." The driver turned left and then stopped in the hope that a passerby could tell us the way. It was 8:30 pm. But the moment he stopped, I heard voices calling: "'Ammu Mourid, 'Ammu Mourid. Come up. We're here!" In a second they were around me. "Where's your father?" Fadwa said that the moment he had seen one of the bridge cars stopping (with the luggage on top) he had gone to the phone to call my mother in Amman. I knew that my mother would have spent the whole day by the phone until she heard I had arrived safely. The experience of eating Mounif back form the bridge is still constantly with her. And when she said goodbye to me on the bridge her face was a misture of hope and despair. I knew also that Radwa and Tamim in Dairo had been waiting since noon for me to contact them from Ramallah. "We've all been on the balconies since noon." And her daughter, Abeer, said: "Watchtoweres. Father and mother on the first floor balconies, Sam and I on the second. Priase God for your safe arrival." Abu Hazim went for me with open arms. He went for e with his white hair and outstretched arms: a running cross. A happy cross running toward me. Our shoulders met two-thirds of the way to his house. I called my mother and 'Alaa and Elham in Amman, and Radwa and Tamim in Cairo: "I'm in Ramallah." And on Abut Hazim's balcony there it was, in its black frame, hanging on the wall, the first thing my eyes fell upon: Mounif's photograph.