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The Rising of the Ashes

By Geoff Wisner

Better known as the author of novels such as The Sand Child and Leaving Tangier, and of nonfiction such as Islam Explained, the Moroccan-born author Tahar Ben Jelloun is also a poet.

The Rising of the Ashes, published this month by City Lights Books, was written in French and appeared in 1991 in a bilingual French-Arabic edition. The new book is a bilingual French-English edition, translated by Cullen Goldblatt.

I will be reviewing The Rising of the Ashes for The Quarterly Conversation, so for now I will only provide an excerpt from the second of the two long poems that make up the book, and quote my Words Without Borders colleague Susan Harris: “As resonant today as when they were composed, these urgent, mournful poems demonstrate the power of speech to shatter the murderous silence of war.”

Abd al-Qader Hantach

April 8, 1983
He had a wife who loved to laugh three children and a donkey.
The eldest was gone
they had blindfolded his eyes and marked his shoulder with a cross.
Hassan and Nahla guarded
the house the day and the sorrowful tree of childhood.
They watched the sky unseemly host to misery.
Abd al-Qader Hantach sold sand.
They killed him on the shore with bullets
and spared the donkey.
He had known fifty-eight years and an immense season of statelessness.

Published Mar 31, 2010   Copyright 2010 Geoff Wisner

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