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

Quotes By Mahmoud Darwish Poets

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

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.

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