Darwish’s Memory: A Part of Tunisia

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Darwish lives on, beyond death. He once said, “We die once in life, and once in death.”

By: Noureddine Baltayeb

Published Saturday, August 11, 2012

Tunis - Four years ago, Mahmoud Darwish (13 March 1941 - 9 August 2008) passed away. Tunisia still pines for the Palestinian poet and remembers well the tears he shed at the municipal theater in 1995 when he said farewell with these words: “Stay the same, Tunisia, for we shall meet again in your sister-land, Palestine. Yes, we left behind the object of our hearts’ yearning, and left in you the best in us; we left behind our martyrs and we pray thee care for them well.”

Four years after the death of the poet, Tunisia celebrated Mahmoud Darwish.

In Zaghouan (60 km west of Tunis), a town known for its Roman Temple of Waters, and its world-famous Nisri roses, artists and poets gathered in the public library garden and lit candles and recited Darwish’s poems. There was also a musical performance inspired by the Darwish entitled “A Rose for Palestine,” conceived by poet and playwright Adnan al-Hilali.

The event in memory of Darwish was the initiative of civil society groups that lack the means, but not the dreams and the strong desire to defend poetry and music at a time when fanatics seem ready to destroy creativity in Tunisia.

The candlelight memorial for the writer, whose poems have come to be memorized by so many Tunisians in high schools and universities, brought together the Association for the Revival of Libraries and Books in Zaghouan, the Mediterranean Art Society in Nabeul, and the Citizenship Awareness Society in Zaghouan, in addition to the Embassy of Palestine and the Society for Tunisian-Egyptian Fraternity.

The Mediterranean city of Sfax also held a commemorative evening for Darwish as part of the Sfax International Festival. Masar, a musical troupe, paid tribute to Darwish’s poems and Marcel Khalife’s songs. On Sunday, the late poet will take center stage at the Roman Theater in Carthage, with Le Trio Joubran and Tunisian poets in a performance dedicated to Darwish.

Darwish lives on, beyond death. He once said, “We die once in life, and once in death.”

Tunisia will never forget his tears at the municipal theater and the verses he recited there: “Thank you Tunisia. I returned safely from her love, and cried among her women in the municipal theatre, until meaning escaped from words. I bade the last summer farewell, like a poet parting with a love song. What will I write after it for another lover…if I ever love again?”

Mahmoud Darwish left, with a part of Tunisia in his heart.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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