Before the Ruins: When Mahmoud Darwish met Walter Benjamin

A lecture by Sinan Antoon, New York University

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Duration: 31:42

Darwish said, on many an occasion, that he considered himself a Trojan poet whose text was lost. He was concerned with recollecting and reconstructing the voices of the defeated to confront and challenge history's master text. My paper juxtaposes the image and function of the Trojan poet Darwish was with that of Walter Benjamin's "historical materialist," whose task was to confront the discursive bulldozers of history. Through a close reading of a few of Darwish's late poems, the paper trace a subtle conversation and a poetic synthesis of some of Benjamin's concepts about triumphalist history and dynamic remembering.

Lecture was part of the one-day conference held on November 5, 2009.