Sunday, August 17, 2008

17th August 2008

I staggered down from the orgy of mourning into Jidariyya by the National Theatre of Palestine at the Royal Lyceum.

I don’t know what the word means, and my Dictionary of Modern Literary Arabic has disappeared. But according to my Hava, the root “jdr” means: “To sprout (plant). To be covered in blisters (hand). To conceal oneself behind a wall”.

Which all by itself sums up what an amazing ricj and allusive language is. There is a noun, “jadrun” which means “Wall. Enclosure, fence. Manure, dunghill”. And, to judge from its form, it could be that “jadariya” means something like “state of enclosure”.

Which would describe rather beautifully the state of Palestine.

The play was adapted from a poem by Mahmoud Darwish, who wrote it when on the boundaries of death and life after a heart operation. He wrote:

“A sense of reality had taken its grip on me when I realised that the ultimate death is the death of language. Under the influence of anaesthesia, I imagined that I still knew my words but could not pronounce them; so I wrote on the doctors’ forms. I had the language when I had nothing left. The author’s struggle with the qasida is self-evident, yet it is our entire life that is in a state of collective struggle against insignificance and the death of our identity. The triumph of poetry over death signifies the dawning of resurrection.”

The first scene could have been about me: entering the hospital with my little suitcase, being stripped of my identity along with my clothes. Entering the boundaries of death.

And he was writing about the same place, in a way, that I am writing about in Everyone. The fact that i saw all this happening in the same theatre I, too, am writing for helped give me courage.

The qasida is an ancient poetic form, predating even the lifetime of the prophet Muhammad: and one of the amazing things about this work was that you felt in the presence of an unbelievably ancient and unbroken tradition stretching right across the Middle East. One that had its roots very deep in the earth; that took no notice of the boundaries of war and hatred, but did indeed speak to everyone.

In a stunningly beautiful and life affirming way.


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