Sarah Irving

I do things with words, mainly English and Arabic

New Review: Darwish, ‘Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone?’

Electronic Intifada, 24 April 2015

In the closing poem of the book, Darwish shapes a scenario which could be that of the West Bank in which he lived his final years. “The enemy” drinks tea in “our hut,” rests his rifle on “Grandfather’s chair” and “strokes our cat’s fur” while “he constantly says to us: Don’t blame the victim! We ask him: Who is that?”
In images which are unusually direct by Darwish’s standards, but characteristically powerful, he evokes in cruelly perfect words the appalling intimacy of Israel’s occupation, the ways in which on the levels of both discourse and physical appropriation everything down to “our coffee cups” is stolen away.
If anything detracts from this edition of Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone?, it is the translation. Although Mohammad Shaheen is an able translator, his approach is sometimes overly literal.
While, for instance, the glittering arcs of Fady Joudeh’s translations have sometimes been criticized for straying too far from the Arabic originals, at least his style captures the literally breathtaking experience of reading Darwish.

The full review is here.

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