"Fifth letter", by Atiq Rahimi

Country : Lebanon

Tags : Palestine, Literature, Refugees, Beirut

"War has broken out!"

This sentence, called out in a quavering voice by Michmich – the neighbor – is the leitmotiv of your fourth letter. And war really has broken out, the same war that took me from my country, my family, and, this last week, from you. And now this war is forcing me to leave Lebanon, because a suicide bomb explodes every day. So this is my final letter from Beirut.

"War has broken out."

This statement makes no sense in the Bourj el-Barajneh camp. For these Palestinian exiles, there has been no peace since 1947, no peace that would now have them cry, "War has broken out!" Here, people cry, "And the war continues!" In the words of the poet Munir El-Masri, born fifty years ago in this camp, where: Time is suspended behind sealed-off windows,

Words behind emaciated  lips, and music between tangled strings…

At the call to prayer, his oud tucked under his arm, Munir heads not towards the mosque, but towards the highest roof in the Tower of towers; before singing, however, he pauses for a long silent moment, looking far, far into the distance to glimpse the setting sun.

He no longer dreams, no longer thinks. He considers, and contemplates.

He contemplates the fate of his people, and he questions his God… Then, his inner voice trembling, desperate, he tells himself that the Palestinians must be lost in exile in order to experience the sufferings of the wandering children of Abraham. This makes their exile in the Tower of towers, or anywhere, a matter not of geo-politics but of fate; a fate that has to be understood as punishment.

Not only the Israeli but also the Arab and Muslim worlds must call  themselves into question. This wisdom does not prevent him from taking up his oud, and singing an ode to his people. May the wind carry his voice over the borders:

"Palestinian, Palestinian, Palestinian,

What does it mean to be Palestinian? 

It means I am the emblem of our nation

The beating heart of our Arab essence

The water and soul of our cause

A Fedayeen of all Arab lands

And every Arab in this universe lives in my veins

I am land and place

People and entity

I am the homeland of all homelands

A homeland in the present, the tangible

No other homeland will do.

I am the sun of our days

The moon of our dreams

The sea of our music

I am dove and peace

The birds of Paradise whistle and sing my praises

Palestinian Palestinian Palestinian."


Last modification the 8 December 2016