Mahmoud Darwish Biography


Birthday: March 13, 1941 (Pisces)

Born In: Al-Birwa

Mahmoud Darwish was a Palestinian poet and one of the leading artists of the Arab world who gave voice to the struggles of his people. He received international acclaim for his poetry which mostly focused on the strong affection for a lost homeland. Born to a family of landowners, his family fled to Lebanon upon the establishment of Israel and stayed there for a year, before secretly re-entering Israel and settling down. After completing his secondary education, he began publishing poetry and articles for newspapers and magazines, later serving as their editor. After that, he moved to Cairo and Beirut, where he worked in the research and publishing institutes of the PLO, from which he resigned following the Oslo Accords. His poetry became much sophisticated over the years and he gained international fame. One of the central themes of his poetry was the concept of homeland and his poetry was characterized by the honesty of his emotions and the novelty of his poetic images. In his long and flourishing career, he published around 30 collections of poetry and prose, which were translated into more than two dozen languages. His poems received positive response throughout the Arab world, and several of them were put to music. He earned numerous awards for his marvelous literary works, and the honor of being the Palestinian national poet was bestowed upon him.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Maḥmūd Darwīsh

Died At Age: 67

Poets Moscow State University

Died on: August 9, 2008

place of death: Houston

More Facts

education: Moscow State University

awards: The Lotus Prize - 1969-from the Union of Afro-Asian Writers
Lenin Peace Prize - 1983-from the USSR
The Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters - 1993-from France

The Lannan Foundation Prize for Cultural Freedom - 2001
Prince Claus Awards - 2004

  • 1

    What impact did Mahmoud Darwish have on modern Arabic poetry?

    Mahmoud Darwish is considered one of the greatest poets in modern Arabic literature, known for his powerful and evocative verses that often address themes of love, loss, and the Palestinian struggle for independence. His works have inspired generations of poets and readers alike, shaping the landscape of contemporary Arabic poetry.

  • 2

    What are some recurring themes in Mahmoud Darwish's poetry?

    Some of the recurring themes in Mahmoud Darwish's poetry include exile, homeland, identity, memory, and resistance. His poems often reflect his personal experiences as a Palestinian living under occupation, as well as broader universal themes of love, longing, and human suffering.

  • 3

    How did Mahmoud Darwish's poetry contribute to the Palestinian national identity?

    Mahmoud Darwish's poetry played a significant role in shaping and articulating the Palestinian national identity. Through his powerful verses, he captured the collective experiences, struggles, and aspirations of the Palestinian people, helping to forge a sense of unity and resilience among Palestinians both in the homeland and in diaspora.

  • 4

    What is the significance of Mahmoud Darwish's use of symbolism in his poetry?

    Mahmoud Darwish often employed rich symbolism in his poetry to convey complex emotions and ideas. By using symbols such as the olive tree, the nightingale, and the sea, Darwish added layers of meaning to his verses, inviting readers to interpret his poems on multiple levels and engage with deeper philosophical and political themes.

  • 5

    How did Mahmoud Darwish's poetry transcend national boundaries and resonate with audiences around the world?

    Despite being deeply rooted in Palestinian history and culture, Mahmoud Darwish's poetry is celebrated for its universal appeal and ability to resonate with audiences from diverse backgrounds. His profound reflections on love, loss, and human suffering have touched the hearts of readers worldwide, establishing him as a global literary figure.

Childhood & Early Life
Mahmoud Darwish was born on March 13, 1941, in the village of al-Birwa in the Western Galilee, to Salim, and his wife, Houreyyah Darwish. He was the second of the eight children of his parents.
In 1948, his family fled to Lebanon after Israeli forces assaulted his village of al-Birwa. A year later, the family returned to the Acre area, which was now part of Israel, and settled in Deir al-Asad.
He received his early education from a high school in Kafr Yasif, two kilometers north of Jadeidi, and later moved to Haifa.
At the age of 19, he published his first book of poetry, ‘Asafir bila ajniha’ or ‘Wingless Birds’. Initially, he published his poems in ‘Al Jadid’, the literary periodical of the Israeli Communist Party, later serving as its editor.
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Mahmoud Darwish became an assistant editor of ‘Al Fajr’, a literary periodical published by the Israeli Workers Party. During the 1960s he was a member of Rakah, the Israeli communist party, and later joined the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Beirut.
In 1970, he left Israel to study in the USSR. He studied at the University of Moscow for one year before moving to Egypt and Lebanon.
In 1971, he moved to Cairo where he worked for ‘al-Ahram’, a daily newspaper.
In 1973, he edited the monthly ‘Shu'un Filistiniyya’ in Beirut and worked as director in the Palestinian Research Center of the PLO. When he joined the PLO, he was banned from reentering Israel.
During the difficult times of the Lebanon War, he wrote political poems such as ‘Qasidat Bayrut’ (1982) and ‘Madih al-zill al'ali’ (1983).
In 1987, he was elected to the PLO Executive Committee, a post he served in for the next six years. He resigned from the post following the Oslo accords, in 1993.
Mahmoud Darwish published over 30 volumes of poetry and eight books of prose. Some of his poetry collections include ‘The Music of Human Flesh’ ‘Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone?’, Psalms’, ‘The Adam of Two Edens’, ‘Stage of Siege’, and ‘The Butterfly’s Burden’.
Many of his poems were set to music by Arab composers which served as anthems for at least two generations of Arabs.. These include: ‘Rita and the Rifle’, ‘Birds of Galilee’ and ‘I Yearn for my Mother's Bread’
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Major Works
In 1998, Mahmoud Darwish published his first collection of love poems titled ‘Sareer el Ghariba (Bed of the Stranger)’.
In 2000, Mahmoud Darwish published ‘Jidariyya’ (Mural), a book about his near death experience. It depicts his encounter with death following a heart surgery in 1998.
Awards & Achievements
In 1969, he received ‘The Lotus Prize’ from the Union of Afro-Asian Writers.
In 1983, Mahmoud Darwish was awarded the ‘Lenin Peace Prize’ by the USSR.
In 1993, he was conferred with the title of ‘The Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters’ by France.
In 2001, he was presented with ‘The Lannan Foundation Prize for Cultural Freedom’.
In 2004, he became the winner of ‘Prince Claus Awards’.
In 2007, he won the ‘Golden Wreath of Struga Poetry Evenings’ and ‘The International Forum for Arabic Poetry prize’.
Personal Life & Legacy
Mahmoud Darwish was first married to Rana Kabbani, a writer, whom he later divorced. Later, in the mid-1980s, he married Hayat Heeni, an Egyptian translator. He had no children from either marriage.
He had a history of heart problems and suffered a cardiac arrest in 1984. He underwent two heart operations, in 1984 and 1998.
Mahmoud Darwish died on August 9, 2008, three days after yet another heart surgery in Houston, Texas. He was 67 years old. His body was buried at Ramallah's Palace of Culture.
Facts About Mahmoud Darwish

Mahmoud Darwish was known for his love of nature and often incorporated imagery of the Palestinian landscape in his poetry, illustrating his deep connection to the land.

Despite facing censorship and exile during his life, Darwish remained committed to his art and continued to write about themes of love, loss, and the Palestinian struggle for independence.

Darwish's poetry has been translated into several languages, reaching a global audience and solidifying his reputation as a universal voice for human rights and social justice.

In addition to his poetry, Darwish also wrote essays and memoirs, showcasing his versatility as a writer and thinker who engaged with a wide range of topics beyond his own personal experiences.

See the events in life of Mahmoud Darwish in Chronological Order

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