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Palestine : The dream, the text, and the fulfillment

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Maya Abu Alhayyat*

I used to hear my father say, “suffice to return to a dump on that land for me to possess all happiness”
I didn’t believe…

Born To a father from Palestine
Expelled from the homeland
But carried it like back pain
No cure for it
As he carried his mother’s photograph in the pocket of his khaki shirt
Taking it out every time he felt hunger
And so becoming satiated, or thus he imagined
He burdens me with his genes that adore the image of that land, the journey to exile, return, absence, pain, adaptation and contradiction
In that place we dwelled was a palace. I used to hear my father say, “suffice to return to a dump on that land for me to possess all happiness”
I didn’t believe


After the long journey of return, the Diaspora would add to me a dimension I’d later discover through writing
It will give me the courage to understand my father’s mental state while I watched him place a plastic chair at the beginning of the road to his old house in the alleys of the city of Nablus, and sit there for hours…
For hours he sat, perhaps weeping secretly as he did every time he heard the national anthem playing at school when he took me there in the morning

Place. That mythical word that captivates you for a lifetime without you knowing why it captivates us all, the exiled, immigrants, residents and dead
Since you are also from this place, your writer’s bag will never be empty
Since everything around you offers you scenes only good for novels
And emotions which grow you poems during the night
You, the receiver of all this, will try to be neutral, think about being, about the wretched and about creation
Read Neruda, Edward Said and Jostein Gaarder
And feel the thrill of happiness at the idea
For you can enliven and kill who you please in a novel
You will triumph for the wretched, the orphans and Foucault’s marginalized folk
For you, there at the edge of your text are strong and creative
You will write an indifferent history which will enter homes and sleep on the foam mattresses in the camps
And tell a new truth not imposed by Markava tanks
And unfriendly planes

Being a writer will not do for a Palestinian, for she must be lost amongst existence and fulfillment
She must define her Palestinianism and recreate it from nothingness. She must prove it as it is an idea in her head which everyone fights
A million ‘others’ you have because you are Palestinian, a million identities, an existence, a land and a poem
As if in a labyrinth of mirrors, each with a face, an opinion a shape it takes
The act of writing comes as the triumph of the end of the night
You already know the guilt you will feel from the pleasure you will feel from the poem you wrote from feelings you felt on witnessing the killing on the screen
As if it were the last action, no beginning to it
Writing here, is not a luxury, not an expression of objection, acceptance or misery
Writing is the announcing of existing, an action fulfilled but never complete

* A Palestinian poet and writer. The article is an excerpt from a  lecture presented in Sweden

Filed under: Arab lit and art, Articles, English

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