Iterations of Loss: Mutilation and Aesthetic Form, al-Shidyaq to Darwish

Iterations of Loss: Mutilation and Aesthetic Form, al-Shidyaq to Darwish

Jeffrey Sacks

Language: English

Pages: 368

ISBN: 0823264955

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In a series of exquisite close readings of Arabic and Arab Jewish writing, Jeffrey Sacks considers the relation of poetic statement to individual and collective loss, the dispossession of peoples and languages, and singular events of destruction in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. Addressing the work of Mahmoud Darwish, Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq, Elias Khoury, Edmond Amran El Maleh, Shimon Ballas, and Taha Husayn, Sacks demonstrates the reiterated incursion of loss into the time of life-losses that language declines to mourn. Language occurs as the iteration of loss, confounding its domestication in the form of the monolingual state in the Arabic nineteenth century's fallout.

Reading the late lyric poetry of the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish in relation to the destruction of Palestine in 1948, Sacks reconsiders the nineteenth century Arabic nahda and its relation to colonialism, philology, and the European Enlightenment. He argues that this event is one of catastrophic loss, wherein the past suddenly appears as if it belonged to another time. Reading al-Shidyaq's al-Saq 'ala al-saq (1855) and the legacies to which it points in post-1948 writing in Arabic, Hebrew, and French, Sacks underlines a displacement and relocation of the Arabic word adab and its practice, offering a novel contribution to Arabic and Middle East Studies, critical theory, poetics, aesthetics, and comparative literature.

Drawing on writings of Jacques Derrida, Walter Benjamin, Avital Ronell, Judith Butler, Theodor Adorno, and Edward W. Said, Iterations of Loss shows that language interrupts its pacification as an event of aesthetic coherency, to suggest that literary comparison does not privilege a renewed giving of sense but gives place to a new sense of relation.

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it teaches a way of remaining with tradition during the time of its loss and devastation.7 This devastation points to the loss and destruction of Palestine in 1948, and it reaches into the nineteenth century, Citation 25 to another place and another time, to gesture to the loss of language and an ode. Such losses are not set aside, transcended, or overcome in poetic statement. Neither are they mourned or left behind, if only, and not solely, because they form a condition for language. What

question of politics (“The intentions of the political poem have been depleted, in my opinion, except for in important states of emergency. Perhaps I’ll scream angrily tomorrow, to express something, but the political poem is no longer a part of my different understanding of poetry” [67]), to give Darwish to ask, “But what is poetic and what is not? That is also a question. Politics may not be removed entirely from the margins or the cells of the poem. The question is how to express this

falls into pieces.50 This falling into pieces—into parts that point to no whole, and which both solicit and confound the form of the body alBustani wished to install—is dramatized in the second of the scenes of dream interpretation in al-Saq ‘ala al-saq, to which I turn below. And it teaches us how to read this text, even as the reflection on language in al-Shidyaq divides as it tells us that it is modern: they worked on language, I love it. To read al-Saq ‘ala al-saq is to read this division. It

to separate it from its mother? In the end you didn’t bury any of them. You broke off olive branches, covered the bodies and decided to come back later with a pickaxe to dig them a grave. You covered them with olive branches and continued on your way to Lebanon. And all the many times you went back to Deir al-Asad, you never found a trace of them” (22/18). The dead who remain unburied 170 Repetition haunt Bab al-shams, and one such death is that of Yunus, who grows smaller as the novel

of language and of writing. Language, like literature, will never have let go of loss (“For the principal matter of literature,” Khoury writes, “is language [fa madat al-adab al-ra’isiyya hiyya al-lugha]”), and Bab al-shams, then, schools its readers in the relations among loss, mourning, and aesthetic form.63 Literature, in Khoury, may be said to iterate a relation between form and death, teaching us to read language differently, and anew. Repetition 175 This iteration declines a sociality

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