Thursday, 21 August 2014

i was born there, i was born there [mourid bargouti]

Bargouti’s book is a picaresque memoir of his Palestinian life. Bargouti is a poet and the book displays his poet’s eye as it assembles fragments from a life not lived. That life should have been his Palestinian life, but it's a life interrupted by politics, meaning he spent time in Egypt, the Gulf, Eastern Europe, Jordan and other parts of the globe. The only time he goes back to live in Palestine, in the West Bank, he finds himself coming into conflict with the corruption of the Palestine State, something that he believes will always undermine any deals negotiated with the Israelis. (Bargouti is a fierce critic of the Oslo agreement.)

The book offers insight into life in the West Bank as it has been lived over the course of fifty years, charting the attempts of its society to retain its integrity and customs in the face of the Israeli aggression. An aggression which doesn’t merely show its face with the force of its weaponry, but also through the way it insists on interceding on the daily lives of ordinary Palestinians. The problems of the Israeli occupation are more corrosive and insidious than the headlines of war. It’s the removal of normality which Bargouti documents. Any journey becomes an odyssey; any family becomes divided; any life becomes ruptured. (“The Occupation distorts the distances between humans as much as those between places.”)

The book is also studded with apercus about the strange role of the poet within society. Bargouti’s son follows in his father’s footsteps, taking on the Romantic role of the “unacknowledged legislator”. Bargouti is highly conscious of an obligation for his poetry to be representative of its roots, whilst at the same time retain its creative ‘independence’. He notes that “to be a poet you need two contradictory things – a great amount of vitality and a great amount of idleness”. It's a note that suggests the poet liable is always liable to be in conflict with any social system. 

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