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Samih al-Qasim: Sadder than Water (poetry)

Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 09.12.2006:


By Samih Al-Qasim

Translated from the Arabic by Nazih Kassis

Introduced by Adina Hoffman

Ibis Editions, Jerusalem, 2006, 224 pages, $15.95

One of the foremost Palestinian poets and a major figure in the Arab world, Samih Al-Qasim was born in 1939, in Zarqa, Jordan, to a Palestinian Druze family from the Galilee. He grew up in the village of Rama and experienced the Palestinian tragedy of 1948 first hand, achieving fame as one of the celebrated “resistance poets” during the 1950s. His first book was published when he was just eighteen, and over the decades he has produced a body of work that is as varied and innovative as it is large. Today a citizen of Israel and still a resident of Rama, Samih Al-Qasim is an outspoken opponent of racism and oppression on all sides of the Middle East conflict. Given the richness of Al-Qasim’s work and its centrality to Arabic literature at large, it is surprising that his poetry remains almost unknown in English to non-specialists.

This bilingual collection will, it is hoped, help to correct this state of affairs, since one cannot really claim to understand modern Palestinian letters without reading Samih Al-Qasim. Sadder Than Water collects poems from his various periods and modes and makes available to English readers for the first time ever the full range of Al-Qasim’s oeuvre, which is characterized by its ironic approach to painfully charged political situations, its melancholy music, and its lyrical evocation of Palestinian heritage.

Al-Qasim is the author of over thirty books of poetry, as well as several novels, collections of plays, essays and criticism. He appears regularly at literary festivals throughout the Arab world and in Europe, his work has been translated into many languages, and editions of his collected poems have been published in Beirut and in Cairo.

Nazih Kassis is a lexicographer and translator of contemporary Arabic prose and poetry. He received his doctorate in linguistics from the University of Exeter and has compiled, edited, and translated several dictionaries. He has taught English and Arabic at the University of Haifa, the Academic Arab College for Education, and Portland State University. He writes poetry in the local dialect. Born in the Palestinian village of Iqrit in 1944, he has lived in Rama since 1948.

Adina Hoffman is the author of House of Windows: Portraits from a Jerusalem Neighborhood (Steerforth Press/Broadway Books). She has worked as film critic for the American Prospect and the Jerusalem Post, and her essays and literary criticism have appeared in the TLS, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, New York Newsday, and on the World Service of the BBC. One of the founders and editors of Ibis Editions, she is writing a life and times of the Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali.

The book is available at the Educational Bookshop on Salah Eddin Street and the American Colony Bookstore. It is also available by direct order on the press’s website,

(Courtesy of the publisher)


This Week in Palestine

December 2006

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