I Was Born There, I Was Born Here

Overview

In 1996, award-winning Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti returned to his home for the first time since his exile-first in Egypt, then in Hungary-following the Six-Day War in 1967, and wrote I Saw Ramallah, a poignant and acclaimed memoir of the exile's lot. A few years later, he returned to the Occupied Territories to introduce his Cairo-born son, Tamim, to his Palestinian family. Soon after returning to Egypt, Tamim was arrested for taking part in a demonstration against the impending Iraq War, and ironically ...

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I Was Born There, I Was Born Here

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Overview

In 1996, award-winning Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti returned to his home for the first time since his exile-first in Egypt, then in Hungary-following the Six-Day War in 1967, and wrote I Saw Ramallah, a poignant and acclaimed memoir of the exile's lot. A few years later, he returned to the Occupied Territories to introduce his Cairo-born son, Tamim, to his Palestinian family. Soon after returning to Egypt, Tamim was arrested for taking part in a demonstration against the impending Iraq War, and ironically was held not only in the same Cairo prison his father had occupied before being expelled from Egypt when Tamim was a baby, but in the very same cell. Tamim then felt the same sting of exile as he was banished from Egypt.

Explaining to his son, and to the world, the life decisions he has made, I Was Born There, I Was Born Here illuminates the path of exile across generations. Ranging freely back and forth in time between the 1990s and the present, Barghouti poignantly recalls Palestinian history and daily life while expressing the meaning of home and the importance of being able to say, standing in a small village in Palestine, "I was born here," rather than saying from exile, "I was born there." His elegant and expressive prose, beautifully rendered in Humphrey Davies' sensitive translation, is full of life and humor in the face of a culture of death. I Was Born There, I Was Born Here is destined, like its predecessor, to become a classic.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a series of grim, emotive essays set in the occupied territories of Israel, the long exiled Jordanian Palestinian poet Barghouti (I See Ramallah) recounts his return with his grown son and delineates the terrible changes he witnessed in the villages of his childhood and within his own family. Born in Deir Ghassanah, near Ramallah on the West Bank, in 1944, and displaced from his home with his family after the Nakba (as the Arabs call the “catastrophe” (nakba means catastrophe in Arabic) of the founding of Israel in 1948), Barghouti was largely schooled in Cairo; after being forcibly expelled from Egypt in 1977, despite being married to an Egyptian woman and with a newborn son, Tamim, the author lived in Budapest for 13 years, hindered from seeing his family except for short periods and essentially rendered helpless to protect them. In the essay “Father and Son,” Barghouti reconstructs the moment of returning to the land of his youth with the then 21-year-old Tamim, who had finally received an Israeli entry permit and was able to see firsthand the police state under which the Palestinian villages were held, involving arbitrary checkpoints, arrests, and interrogation. Yet while relentlessly critical of the Israelis, Barghouti also comes down hard on the failed Palestinian leadership, describing how his land was lost “through drowsiness, slumber, and trickery.” Barghouti vividly describes the Palestinian sense of “invisibility” juxtaposed with Israeli aggression to portray an untenable yet fiercely ongoing state of flux and conflict. (July)
Library Journal
Forced out of Israel after the Six-Day War, esteemed Palestinian poet Barghouti has lived a life of exile. As recounted here, he returned home in 1996 for a visit with his Cairo-born son, Tamim. Then, back in Egypt, Tamim was arrested for protesting against the Iraq War and held in the same prison cell his father had occupied before he was expelled for a time from Egypt. At first glance meditative and pointed; for anyone interested in the Middle East.
Kirkus Reviews
The emotionally powerful memoir of an exiled Palestinian poet. Barghouti (Midnight and Other Poems, 2008, etc.) won the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for I Saw Ramallah, an account of his return to Ramallah in 1996 after a 30-year absence. In this sequel, he returns to introduce that land to his son, Tamim, who was born in Cairo to Barghouti's Egyptian wife and is a stranger in his father's homeland. When the author writes of olives and coffee as metaphors for relationships, the poet in him shines through. When he writes of Israelis, his hatred is raw and his language loaded. Barghouti leaves no doubt about his feelings about Israel, nor about the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, whose "corruption is firm, deeply rooted, and beyond redemption," nor about Arab dictatorships, which are "enamored to the point of scandal with their colonizers." Barghouti's chapters can be read as stand-alone essays, and one of the most unforgettable is "The Ambulance," an account of slipping through the Qalandya checkpoint by riding inside an ambulance bearing a fragile old woman to a hospital in Ramallah. The memoir is full of flashbacks, and in this piece the flashback is to the death of his older brother Mounif. The fragments of poems embedded throughout the book often provide powerful images that speak louder than the author's sometimes harsh condemnations. A moving picture of one man's personal grief and undying anger.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802779977
  • Publisher: Walker & Company
  • Publication date: 7/17/2012
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Mourid Barghouti was born in 1944 near Ramallah. He has published thirteen books of poetry in Arabic including a Collected Works (1997) and received the Palestine Award for Poetry in 2000. A selection of his poetry, Midnight and Other Poems, was published in English in 2008. He lives in Cairo with his wife, the novelist and critic Radwa Ashour.

Humphrey Davies has translated many Arabic books by a wide range of authors, including Bahaa Taher, Khaled al-Berry, and Ahmed Alaydi. His translation of Elias Khoury’s Gate of the Sun was awarded the Banipal Prize, and that of Alaa Al Aswany’s The Yacoubian Building was voted Best Translation of 2007 by the Society of Authors in London.

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Table of Contents

'Come Closer', Foreword John Berger xi

1 The Driver Mahmoud 1

2 Father and Son 31

3 The Yasmin Building 53

4 I Was Born There, I Was Born Here 79

5 The Identity Card 107

6 The Ambulance 115

7 Saramago 137

8 The Alhambra 159

9 Things One Would Never Think Of 173

10 The Dawn Visitor 195

11 An Ending Leading to the Beginning? 211

Glossary 215

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