My review of Najwan Darwish’s Nothing More to Lose, masterfully translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid, is live at NPR Books. This is the reined-in version of what was at first an almost incoherently effusive review, as I tried to figure out my feelings about other people’s imagined feelings while pondering the thousand injustices of the world and my inability to do anything to change them.
It’s better now. It probably didn’t need that close reading of “Fabrications” anyway.
Here’s a sample:
These poems range far and wide in subject, place, time: there are evocations of Rio de Janeiro as well as Jerusalem, Jesus and Saladin as well as contemporary politicians and friends. Musings on and examinations of identity, especially “Arab” identity, inform many of these pieces; there is an awareness, too, of history as a character and a setting, as a contested space that is both nightmare and testament. But throughout this variety Darwish’s singular, wonderful voice — a voice flexible and confident enough to be capable of celebrating and lamenting, joking and condemning, often in the same poem — unites and animates them all.
I hope you’ll give it a try; as it happens, today it appears to be 25% off directly from NYRB. I also highly recommend this review by M. Lynx Qualey over at ArabLit, which includes reflections by both Darwish and Abu-Zeid about the collection (as well as a lot of consideration given to “Fabrications,” which is, as far as I’m concerned, the core of the book).
You can also, if you fancy, hear and occasionally see video of Darwish performing his poetry in Arabic here.