Palestinian literary poet Mourid Barghouti dies at 76

Al-Jazeera  /  February 15, 2021

Celebrated Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti passed away in Amman on Sunday after spending most of his life in exile.

Renowned Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti has died at the age of 76 in the Jordanian capital Amman, after spending most of his life in exile.

Mourid’s son, Arab poet Tamim Barghouti, wrote late on Sunday on his Facebook page: “May Allah have mercy on my mother and father”.

The Palestinian Minister of Culture Atef Abu Saif mourned Barghouti’s death, saying the Palestinians and Arab world have “lost a symbol of national struggle and creativity”.

On July 8, 1944, Barghouti was born in the Palestinian village of Deir Ghassanah on the outskirts of the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, four years before the Nakba (Catastrophe), the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and near-total destruction of Palestinian society during the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

What remained after the creation of Israel was later occupied and annexed following the 1967 war.

Prior to the war, Barghouti moved to the Egyptian capital in 1963 to pursue a degree in English literature at Cairo University. He graduated in 1967, and was not able to return to Ramallah for another 30 years.

‘Palestinian displacement’

A champion of the Palestinian cause, Barghouti spent years of his life writing about his homeland and the Israeli occupation. He lived in several countries across the region, including in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, before returning to Egypt.

There, he met his wife Radwa Ashour, an Egyptian novelist who died in 2014. Ashour translated Barghouti’s internationally acclaimed autobiographical novel, I Saw Ramallah.

His memoir of exile and displacement was inspired by his return to Ramallah following the signing of the Oslo Accords in the 1990s.

The late Edward Said described it as “one of the finest existential accounts of Palestinian displacement”.

In 2009, Mourid released another novel, widely considered an extension of his first one, titled:  I Was Born There, I Was Born Here. It was written upon his return to Ramallah with his only son, Tamim, and was also translated into English in 2012.

Apart from his novel, Barghouti published 12 poetry collections over the years.

He read his poetry and exhibited his books around the world, and lectured on Palestinian and Arab poetry at universities in Oxford, Manchester, Oslo, and Madrid, among others.

Barghouti vehemently opposed the Oslo Accords and the outcome of the agreements, and most recently decried the latest US-brokered Arab normalisation deals with Israel.

Although he was a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Barghouti did not identify with any political party. He spent years as the body’s cultural attaché in Budapest, Hungary.

There was no immediate announcement on the cause of Barghouti’s death.