Black Winds In many languagesmen devastate the land tear it up with gun-fireSmash it with terrorbury it under the dead In the spiral of agesIn the black winds of hatredlove is too light.This poem by Andrée Chedid appeared in the poetry collection “Ceremonial of Violence” in 1976, one year after war broke out in Lebanon. Those few, stark, tragic lines could apply to several tragedies in the last quarter of the century: Beirut.… Sarajevo.... Kosovo.
At a time of Islamist scripturalism, political defeatism, and haunting economic divisions, the Egyptian government's Supreme Council of Culture organized a conference to claim Qasim Amin's ideology as its own and to invoke its kinship ties with the “liberation of women.” The six-day conference, which convened in Cairo on October 23, 1999, hosted 40 sessions, 14 round tables, and 10 workshops attended by more than 150 scholars and writers from Arab countries and around the world.*
In only one or two generations, Arab Americans will achieve a literary renaissance of huge significance. More opportunities for cultural and ethnic validation exist than did in the past, and Arab Americans are now articulating their voices with originality and confidence. As the body of Arab-American literature flourishes and grows, critics and scholars need a specific critical matrix that uses Arab artistic traditions as well as American, and is articulated from within the Arab-American community.
Fadwa Tuqan has passed away in her late 80s, but even so we cannot imagine her very old or retired. For many years, Fadwa Tuqan withdrew herself from the literary scene, her absence accentuated by Palestine 's remoteness after 1967. She clung to her home by becoming more Palestinian, as if she returned to Palestine and disappeared beyond the bridge which separates the West Bank from Jordan.
There is something tragic about the life of Mai Ziadeh, a writer who was falsely accused of insanity in her 50s. This accusation stripped her of her freedom, money, and civil rights. It ruined her reputation, and she was forcibly thrown into a mental institution, thanks to her cousin, her “best friend.”
However, I believe that her tragedy and pain began long before that, during the “Golden Years” of the Literary Salon that Mai organized. These years were filled with a different kind of agony, as spiritually isolating as the enforced time spent in the mental institution.
Ali Ahmad Said, pen name Adonis, is perhaps the most creative living Arab literary critic, often discussed as a potential candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature. In 1995, he made headlines in the Arab world not because of a book he wrote, although most of his books instantly become classics, but because he attended a conference in Spain that included Israeli intellectuals. Some zealot Arab intellectuals accused Adonis of advocating al tatbi , the normalization of cultural and economic relations with Israel . Consequently he was expelled from the Union of Arab Writers.
When Fateh al-Moudarres died, he left like a child treading the path of Golgotha, and in his death, as in his life, he appeared like Jesus the Redeemer, who never grew tired from giving counsel and setting examples.
Since I left Lebanon in 1976 to establish myself in France, I have been asked many times, with the best intentions in the world, if I felt more French or more Lebanese. I always give the same answer: "Both." Not in an attempt to be fair or balanced but because if I gave another answer I would be lying. This is why I am myself and not another, at the edge of two countries, two or three languages and several cultural traditions. This is precisely what determines my identity. Would I be more authentic if I cut off a part of myself?
I cannot bid farewell to Edward Said because of his overwhelming presence in us and in the world. He is still very much alive in us. Our conscience and ambassador to the human consciousness succumbed yesterday in his long, futile struggle with death. But he never succumbed to, nor stopped resisting the new world order, in his defense of justice and of the humanist tradition, that is common among cultures and civilizations. He was a hero in cheating death during the past 12 years by renewing his fertile creative life through writing, playing music and documenting the human will.
I met Professor Edward Said twice in the 1980s at UCLA, where I was doing graduate work. A group of graduate students and faculty invited several scholars and intellectuals to speak on the Palestine question; those scholars included Said and Noam Chomsky, among others.