Far from accentuating the glorification that is synonymous with Mahmoud Darwish and his beautiful poetry, the new biography “Mahmoud Darwish: literature and the politics of Palestinian identity” by Muna Abu Eid (I.B. Tauris, 2016) is a competent exercise in revealing the intricacies of Palestinian collective memory combined with the complex persona of the man himself. Yet, within these contrasts, the essence of Darwish remains intact.
Abu Eid has availed herself of theory, primary sources and the Palestinian struggle to enact a narration of Darwish as a man who, despite the contradictions between his political and literary career, managed to carve a niche in which realism and expression were skilfully separated. As an intellectual who experienced the ramifications of the Nakba and subsequent return first-hand, authenticity in relation to the Palestinian identity and anti-colonial struggle was a multi-faceted task; one that contained personal, political and collective expression. On the role of intellectuals in society, Abu Eid does not confine it to a necessity for “the creation of nationalism, but also because they are perceived as central players in any cultural and ethnic development.”
Indeed, Darwish’s role as a literary intellectual in Palestinian society is also a direct form of struggle against Zionism as regards the shaping of collective memory and “to prevent those who had colonised the land from [also] colonising memory.” Read more.