Beloved Palestinian poet Mourid al-Barghouti dies at 76

Beloved Palestinian poet Mourid al-Barghouti dies at 76
3 min read
15 February, 2021
Barghouti leaves behind a son, fellow poet Tamim al-Barghouti, and a celebrated body of work.
Barghouti with his late wife, the Egyptian author Radwa Ashour [Twitter]
Leading Palestinian poet and writer Mourid al-Barghouti died on Sunday at the age of 76.

Born four years before the state of Israel was created in the town of Deir Ghassana, Barghouti spent most of his life in exile.

He leaves behind a son, fellow poet Tamim al-Barghouti, and a celebrated body of work that includes memoir "I Saw Ramallah".

The book, first published in 1997, is a lyrical account of Barghouti's return to his homeland after three decades in exile. It was celebrated by pre-eminent Palestinian academic Edward Said as "one of the finest existential accounts of Palestinian displacement that we now have".

Barghouti travelled to Egypt in the '60s to study English literature at the University of Cairo. 

It was there he met his wife, the Egyptian novelist Radwa Ashour who died in 2014 at the age of 68.

The two lived in several countries across the region, including Jordan and Lebanon. Ashour, a celebrated author in her own right, translated many of his poems into English.

The Israeli occupation of the West Bank in 1967 prevented Barghouti from returning to his home near Ramallah until after the Oslo Accords were struck in the '90s.

Although Barghouti was a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, he avoided identifying with any political party.

The poet opposed the Oslo Accords and recently condemned US-brokered deals to normalise ties between several Arab states and Israel.

The writer's death has been widely mourned in the Arabic-speaking world and beyond.

Palestinians and Arabs have "lost a symbol of national struggle and creativity", said Palestinian Minister for Culture Atef Abu Seif.

He was "one of the creative people who devoted their writings and creativity in defense of the Palestinian cause, the story and struggle of our people, and Jerusalem, the capital of the Palestinian existence", Abu Seif said on Sunday.

Palestinian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir shared a memory of the late poet in the Jordanian capital Amman, where he passed away on Sunday.

"It began to rain. You ran out and flung your arms back like a child, spinning around and smiling as you got soaked," Jacir wrote on Twitter.

"Palestine has lost one of our greatest," she added.

Admirers mourned Barghouthi's passing on social media but found solace in his death marking a Valentine's Day reunion with his late wife.

The two writers' relationship was "one of the twentieth century's great love stories", Marcia Lynx Qualey wrote for The New Arab in 2014.

Barghouti and Ashour spent many years apart - for 17 years, he was banned from living in Egypt - but their love story was told in letters and other writings, Qualey wrote.

"42 years in the the company of Radwa Ashour. Yes. Life can be that generous," Barghouti said in a tweet in 2012.

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