Mahmud Darwish: Eleven Planets in the Last Andalusian Sky

Mahmud Darwish is considered by many Palestinians to be their national poet. Born in a village destroyed during the 1948 war, Darwish spent most of his life in exile. The experience of exile provides a touchstone for many of his poems — as it does for the poems of other Palestinian poets. The poem that follows is titled “Eleven Planets in the Last Andalusian Sky.” According to the Qur´an, the patriarch Joseph saw “eleven planets” in a prophetic vision. “The last Andalusian sky” is an allusion to the expulsion of the Moors from Spain.

On the last evening

we tear our days down from the trelisses

tally the ribs we carry away with us

and the ribs we leave behind.

On the last evening

we bid farewell to nothing,

we've no time to finish,

everything's left as it is,

places change dreams the way they

change casts of characters.

Suddenly we can no longer be lighthearted,

this place is about to play host to nothing.

On the last evening

we contemplate mountains surrounding the clouds,

invasion and counter-invasion,

the ancient era handing our door keys over to a new age.

Enter, O invaders, come, enter our houses,

drink the sweet wine of our Andalusian songs!

We are night at midnight,

no horseman galloping toward us

from the safety of that last call to prayer

to deliver the dawn.

Our tea is hot and green—so drink!

Our pistachios are ripe and fresh — so eat!

The beds are green with new cedarwood

give in to your drowsiness!

After such a long siege, sleep on the

soft down of our dreams!

Fresh sheets, scents at the door, and many mirrors.

Enter our mirrors so we can vacate the premises completely!

Later we'll look up what was recorded in our history about yours in faraway lands.

Then we'll ask ourselves,

“Was Andalusia

here or there? On earth

or only in poems?"

Mahmud Darwish, Adam of the Two Edens: Selected Poems, ed. Munir Akash and Daniel Moore (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2001), pp. 147-70.

SUGGESTED READINGS

Batatu, Hanna. “Of the Diversity of Iraqis, the Incohesiveness of Their Society, and Their Progress in the Monarchic Period toward a Consolidated Political Structure.” In The Modern Middle East, edited by Albert Hourani et al., 503-28. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. The absurdity of the mandates policy presented in graphic detail.

Chehabi, Houchang E. “Staging the Emperor's New Clothes: Dress Codes and Nation-Building Under Reza Shah.” Iranian Studies 26 (Summer/Fall 1993): 209-21. Explains the origins and experiences of Reza Shah's policies with respect to clothing.

Doumani, Beshara. Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus, 17001900. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995. Pathbreaking social, economic, and cultural history of central Palestine over two centuries.

Fromkin, David. A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East. New York: Henry Holt, 1989. Very readable account of great power bargaining and conflict over the Middle East in the wake of World War I.

Gelvin, James L. Divided Loyalties: Nationalism and Mass Politics in Syria at the Close of Empire. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. Close examination of the development of both popular and elite nationalism in the Levant in the aftermath of World War I.

Gelvin, James L. The Israel-Palestine Conflict: One Hundred Years of War. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Readable interpretation of the conflict from the nineteenth century through the present.

Gelvin, James L. “The League of Nations and the Question of National Identity in the Fertile Crescent.” World Affairs (Summer 1995): 35-43. Concise overview of nationalism and state-building in the region in the aftermath of World War I.

Gelvin, James L. “Modernity and Its Discontents: On the Durability of Nationalism in the Arab Middle East.” Nations and Nationalism 5, no. 1 (January 1999): 71-89. Investigation of the origins and persistance of nationalism in the Middle East.

Halliday, Fred. “The Nationalism Debate and the Middle East.” In Middle Eastern Lectures, edited by Martin Kramer, 3. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1999. Presents a cogent theoretical model for understanding nationalism in the region, then applies it.

Hertzberg, Arthur, ed. The Zionist Idea: A Historical Analysis and Reader. New York: Atheneum, 1981. Excerpts from a broad range of Zionist authors, with an excellent introduction on the intellectual history of Zionism.

Hurewitz, J. C “The Entente's Secret Agreements in World War I: Loyalty to an Obsolescing Ethos.” In Palestine in the Late Ottoman Period, edited by David Kushner, 341-48. Jerusalem: Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi, 1986. Situates the agreements made by the entente powers during World War I within the context of the breakdown of the European concert of powers.

Jankowski, James, and Gershoni, Israel, eds. Rethinking Nationalism in the Arab Middle East. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997. Excellent collection of essays on all aspects of nationalism in the Arab Middle East, including the historiography of nationalism.

Karpat, Kemal H. An Inquiry into the Social Foundations of Nationalism in the Ottoman State: From Social Estates to Classes, From Millets to Nations. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Research Monograph 39 (July 1973). An extremely valuable study that looks at the rise of nationalisms within the Ottoman Empire from the standpoint of comparative social history.

Khoury, Philip S. Syria and the French Mandate: The Politics of Arab Nationalism, 19201945. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987. The definitive study of the effects of French mandatory policies on the rise of nationalism in Syria.

Mardin, Serif. “Religion and Secularism in Turkey? In The Modern Middle East, edited by Albert Hourani et al., 347-74. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. Puts the policy of Ataturk in historical perspective.

Shafir, Gershon. “Zionism and Colonialism: A Comparative Approach.” In Israel in Comparative Perspective: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom, edited by Michael N. Barnett, 227-44. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996. A comparison between Zionist settlement in Palestine and contemporaneous movements in other parts of the world.

Smith, Charles D. Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History with Documents. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2001. Probably the best comprehensive history of the conflict over Palestine.

Swedenburg, Ted. “The Role of the Palestinian Peasantry in the Great Revolt (1936-1939).” In The Modern Middle East, edited by Albert Hourani et al., 467-501. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. Overview of the Great Palestine Revolt with a good dose of social history.

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