Mahmoud Darwish was a Palestinian poet and one of the Arab world’s most prominent artists who gave voice to his people’s sufferings. His poems, which usually concentrated on a great affection for a departed homeland, won him international fame. Born into a landowning family, he and his family fled to Lebanon after Israel’s founding and resided there for a year before surreptitiously returning to Israel and settling down. After finishing high school, he began writing poems and essays for newspapers and magazines, eventually becoming their editor. He then proceeded to Cairo and Beirut, where he worked for the PLO’s research and publishing institutes before resigning after the Oslo Accords. Over time, his poetry became more refined, and he garnered international acclaim. His poetry was defined by the honesty of his emotions and the freshness of his poetic images, and one of his key subjects was the concept of motherland. He authored about 30 collections of poetry and prose throughout the course of his long and successful career, which were translated into over two dozen languages. His poems were well-received across the Arab world, and a number of them were set to music. He received various accolades for his outstanding literary works, including the title of Palestinian National Poet.
Childhood and Adolescence
Mahmoud Darwish was born in the village of al-Birwa in the Western Galilee on March 13, 1941, to Salim and Houreyyah Darwish. He was the second of his parents’ eight children.
After Israeli forces attacked his hamlet of al-Birwa in 1948, his family escaped to Lebanon. A year later, the family relocated to Deir al-Asad in the Acre district, which was now part of Israel.
He went to a high school in Kafr Yasif, two kilometers north of Jadeidi, for his early schooling before moving to Haifa.
He released his first book of poetry, ‘Asafir bila ajniha,’ or ‘Wingless Birds,’ when he was 19 years old. He first published his poems in ‘Al Jadid,’ the Israeli Communist Party’s literary monthly, where he eventually served as editor.
A Career of Mahmoud Darwish
Mahmoud Darwish joined the Israeli Workers Party’s literary journal ‘Al Fajr’ as an assistant editor. He was a member of Rakah, Israel’s communist party, in the 1960s and later joined the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Beirut.
He left Israel in 1970 to study in the Soviet Union. Before travelling to Egypt and Lebanon, he spent a year studying at the University of Moscow.
He traveled to Cairo in 1971 to work for the daily newspaper ‘al-Ahram.’
He worked as the director of the Palestinian Research Center of the PLO and published the monthly ‘Shu’un Filistiniyya’ in Beirut in 1973. He was barred from returning to Israel after joining the PLO.
He wrote political poems like ‘Qasidat Bayrut’ (1982) and ‘Madih al-zill al’ali’ during the terrible days of the Lebanon War (1983).
He was elected to the PLO Executive Committee in 1987, and remained there for the next six years. In 1993, he resigned from his office as a result of the Oslo Accords.
Mahmoud Darwish is the author of nearly 30 collections of poetry and eight collections of prose. ‘The Music of Human Flesh’ is one of his poetry books. Psalms, ‘The Adam of Two Edens,’ ‘Stage of Siege,’ and ‘The Butterfly’s Burden’ are among the works.
Many of his poetry were adapted to music by Arab composers, and they became anthems for two generations of Arabs. ‘Rita and the Rifle,’ ‘Birds of Galilee,’ and ‘I Yearn for My Mother’s Bread’ are among them
Major Projects of Mahmoud Darwish
‘Sareer el Ghariba (Bed of the Stranger)’ was Mahmoud Darwish’s debut collection of love poems, published in 1998.
‘Jidariyya’ (Mural), a book on Mahmoud Darwish’s near-death experience, was published in 2000. It depicts his near-death experience after undergoing heart surgery in 1998.
Achievements & Awards
The Union of Afro-Asian Writers awarded him the ‘Lotus Prize’ in 1969.
The Soviet Union awarded Mahmoud Darwish the ‘Lenin Peace Prize’ in 1983.
France bestowed the title of “Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters” on him in 1993.
He was awarded the ‘Lannan Foundation Prize for Cultural Freedom’ in 2001.
He was named the winner of the ‘Prince Claus Awards’ in 2004.
He was awarded the ‘Golden Wreath of Struga Poetry Evenings’ and the ‘International Forum for Arabic Poetry Prize’ in 2007.
Personal History and Legacy
Mahmoud Darwish was married to Rana Kabbani, a writer, for a short time before divorcing her. He later married Hayat Heeni, an Egyptian translator, in the mid-1980s. He didn’t have any children from either of his marriages.
He had a history of heart difficulties, and in 1984, he had a cardiac arrest. In 1984 and 1998, he had two heart surgeries.
Mahmoud Darwish died three days after undergoing yet another heart surgery in Houston, Texas, on August 9, 2008. He was 67 years old at the time. His body was laid to rest in the Palace of Culture in Ramallah.
Estimated Net Worth
Mahmoud is one of the wealthiest poets and one of the most well-known. Mahmoud Darwish’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.