“Eleven planets” by Mahmoud Darwish

This article is also available in: Italiano

“Eleven Planets” is the latest Italian collection of poems by Mahmoud Darwish, the Palestinian poet par excellence. Published in Italy by Jouvence, the book was written in 1992, a year that is repeated over and over again in the work. The key concept of the book, however, is exile, present in each poem and with different nuances.

Eleven planets

The title refers to a verse of the 12th surah of the Quran in which Joseph reveals to Jacob that he saw 11 planets in a dream prostrate themselves to him. This is a divine sign of his ability to connect past, present and future. In a certain sense, Darwish’s work by linking events from completely different periods but all united by one thing: exile from their own land.

“Soon we will look for what our History was alongside your History in distant countries, and we will ask ourselves at the end: Where was Andalusia? Here or there … on earth … or in a poem?

In the first part of the work, which gives the collection its name, Darwish focuses on a date: 1492, the year of the Spanish Reconquista. The choice is not accidental and aims to have an even better analysis of how, centuries later, history repeats itself. What then transpires throughout the work is how often those who welcomed are then driven out. This is the case of the Arabs of Spain and of the American Indians, present in the poem “Penultimate speech of the” Red Indians “to the white man”, and it is the case of the Palestinians, guardians of a land in which no one has ever been a foreigner.
Mahmoud Darwish

Exile does not erase the memory

In the second part of the work, the poet returns to remember with pride the origins of his people, as old as the myth and yet devastated for its goodness. Darwish appeals to Canaanite origins, those that allowed his land to choose Sophocles before Imru Al-Qays. The two poems “A Canaanite stone in the Dead Sea” and “We will choose Sophocles” are a cry to remembrance, to memory, to keep it engraved in the mind so as not to disappear. A concept very similar to the one seen in Pamuk’s “Black Book” which returns strongly here and in the style of Darwish.

A young Mahmoud Darwish

The last two poems “The winter of Rita” and “A horse for the foreigner”, instead, reflect on different conditions of exile. The first is that of a love destined to be as beautiful as it is conditioned by the final word, the second that of a poet destined to abandon Iraq due to the Gulf War. This is where Darwish launches his final question before concluding the work:

“… My friend, on earth there is no chance left for poetry,

but in poetry is there still a possibility for the land after Iraq?

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