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Exhausted on the Cross

Exhausted on the Cross

by Najwan Darwish, translated from the Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid, foreword by Raúl Zurita

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“We drag histories behind us,” the Palestinian poet Najwan Darwish writes in Exhausted on the Cross, “here / where there’s neither land / nor sky.” In pared-down lines, brilliantly translated from the Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid, Darwish records what Raúl Zurita describes as “something immemorial, almost unspeakable”—a poetry driven by a “moral imperative” to be a “colossal record of violence and, at the same time, the no less colossal record of compassion.” Darwish’s poems cross histories, cultures, and geographies, taking us from the grime of modern-day Shatila and the opulence of medieval Baghdad to the gardens of Samarkand and the open-air prison of present-day Gaza. We join the Persian poet Hafez in the conquered city of Shiraz and converse with the Prophet Mohammad in Medina. Poem after poem evokes the humor in the face of despair, the hope in the face of nightmare.

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Poets
ISBN: 9781681375526
Pages: 144
Publication Date:


Exhausted on the Cross, Najwan Darwish’s second volume of poetry, is poignant, raw, unflinching, and deeply humane, infusing the sorrow and suffering of occupation and the human condition with a startling lyricism. Kareem James Abu-Zeid’s unforgettable translation in its stark, clean, yet melodic register, invites us into the complexity of Darwish’s poetry, the suppleness of his Arabic, and the uncompromising vision of resistance in the face of oppression that beats at the heart of this marvelous book.
—National Translation Award in Poetry Shortlist

A voice simultaneously so passionate and so matter-of-fact that it stops the breath.

A feeling of resignation haunts the verses of this celebrated Palestinian writer, but weariness becomes an improbable source of strength in his work. . . Politics takes on a broader meaning: from a mundane breakfast of oil and bread to the opulence of medieval Baghdad, Darwish's capacious vision affirms the plight of his people, but is never confined by it. . . In the end, given the nature of literary history, Darwish will be remembered for poems that speak directly to the politics of the Palestinian struggle. But to ignore everything else—and there is much more—does him a real disservice.
—Kevin Blankinship, Words Without Borders

Such poetry does not play games, linguistic, critical, theoretical, does not address itself to the academies, but goes straight to the heart, straight to the point. And, on every page, in every line, the Lyric voice, the moving, self-questioning power, predominates.
—Nathaniel Tarn

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