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  • Welcome to ALT Magazine & Press: Hazawi Prize Announces 2023 Shortlist: (Sana'a, Yemen) - The shortlist for the 2023 Hazawi Prize for Yemeni Literature has been revealed, announcing the ten writers who have been selected as finalists for this prestigious award.
  • Now in its second yearly round, the Hazawi Prize recognizes exceptional contributions to fiction in Yemeni literature. Organized by the Hazawi Cultural Foundation, this annual prize aims to promote Yemeni literature and support creative writers.
  • This year's shortlist features both emerging and renowned Yemeni authors. The ten works advancing to the final round of judging are:
  • - Abdullah Faisal shortlisted for his novel, Spirits and Secrets.
  • - Aisha Saleh shortlisted for her novel, Under the Ashes
  • - Farouk Merish shortlisted for his novel, A Dignified Stranger
  • - Ahmed Ashraf shortlisted for his novel, A Painful Belt
  • - Ghassan Khalid shortlisted for his novel, A Sky that Rains Fear
  • - Hosam Adel shortlisted for his novel, The Lord of the Black Dog
  • - Asmaa Abdulrazak shortlisted for her novel, Shrapnels
  • - Abdullah Abdu Muhammad shortlisted for his novel, The Road to Sana'a
  • - Najah Bahkeim shortlisted for her novel, The Final Decision
  • - Samir AbdulFattah shortlisted for her novel, What We Cannot See
  • The winner will be revealed at an award ceremony in Sana'a later where they will receive $1,500 USD. Second and third prizes of $1,000 USD each will also be awarded. All shortlisted works are celebrated for chronicling Yemen's rich culture and wartime experiences. This prestigious prize continues highlighting the nation's thriving literary community.

The Struggle for Identity and Resistance in Mahmoud Darwish’s “O Passersby among Transient Words

The Struggle for Identity and Resistance in Mahmoud Darwish’s “O Passersby among Transient Words”


Hatem Al-Shamea


Mahmoud Darwish’s poem “O Passersby among Transient Words” is a powerful and poignant piece that captures the essence of Palestinian identity, resistance, and the longing for freedom. In this short analysis, we will delve into the profound themes and literary devices employed by Darwish to explore the complex relationship between the oppressors and the oppressed, the struggle for self-determination, and the indomitable spirit of a nation.

The Poem: O Passersby among Transient Words,

Carry your names and depart.
Withdraw your hours from our time and depart.
Take what you desire of the sea’s blueness and the sand of memory.
Take what you desire of images, so you may know,
You will never know,
How a stone from our land builds the roof of the sky.

O passersby among transient words,
From you comes the sword, and from us comes our blood.
From you comes steel and fire, and from us comes our flesh.
From you another tank, and from us a stone.
From you a gas bomb, and from us the rain.
And upon us lies what lies upon you of sky and air.
So take your share of our blood and depart.
Enter a fancy dinner party, and depart.
And upon us, we must guard the roses of the martyrs.
And upon us, we must live as we wish.

O passersby among transient words,
Like bitter dust, pass wherever you please,
But do not pass among us like flying insects.
Leave us in our land to work,
For we have wheat to nurture and water with the dew of our bodies.
We have what does not please you here,
A stone… or modesty.
So take the past, if you wish, to the antique market,
And reconstruct the skeletal structure of the hoopoe, if you desire,
On a ceramic plate.
We have what does not please you, we have the future,
And in our land, we have work to do.

O passersby among transient words,
Heap your delusions in an abandoned pit, and depart.
Return the hour hand to the legitimacy of the holy calf,
Or to the timing of a pistol’s music.
For we have what does not please you here, so depart.
And we have what is not in you: a bleeding nation,
A nation fit for forgetting or remembering.

O passersby among transient words,
It is time to depart.
And establish yourselves wherever you please, but not among us.
It is time to depart.

And die wherever you please, but not among us.
For we, in our land, have work to do.

And we have the past here,
And we have the voice of the first life.

And we have the present, and the present, and the future.

And we have this world here… and the hereafter.

So leave our land.
Leave our land… our sea.
Leave our wheat… our salt… our wounds.

Leave everything, and depart from the memories of memory.

O passersby among transient words!

1. The Symbolism of Transience:
The recurring motif of transience throughout the poem serves as a metaphor for the passing nature of words and actions, highlighting the ephemeral nature of power and oppression. The passersby, representing the oppressors, are urged to carry their names and depart, signifying the imperative for them to acknowledge their transient role in the lives of the Palestinian people. This symbolism underscores the Palestinian yearning for a lasting identity and the reclaiming of their narrative.

2. Dualities and Power Dynamics:
Darwish skillfully employs dualities to underscore the power dynamics between the oppressors and the oppressed. The lines “From you comes the sword, and from us comes our blood” and “From you comes steel and fire, and from us comes our flesh” emphasize the asymmetrical nature of the conflict. The oppressors possess weapons and destructive capabilities, while the Palestinians offer their resilience, sacrifice, and humanity. This stark contrast highlights the inherent strength and dignity of the oppressed.

3. The Land as a Source of Resistance:
The poem vividly portrays the deep connection between the Palestinian people and their land. The imagery of a stone from their land building the roof of the sky signifies the indelible mark Palestinians have made on history and their relentless determination to shape their own destiny. The land becomes a potent symbol of resistance, resilience, and identity—a reminder of their inherent right to self-determination.

4. The Paradox of Empowerment and Vulnerability:
In “O Passersby among Transient Words,” Darwish explores the paradoxical relationship between empowerment and vulnerability. While the oppressors possess military might, they are reminded that the sky and air that surround them also encompass the oppressed. This paradox challenges the oppressors’ false sense of superiority and exposes their vulnerability to the indomitable spirit of those they seek to subjugate. The poem emphasizes that true power lies in the ability to resist and endure, rather than in physical dominance.

5. The Interplay of Past, Present, and Future:
Darwish expertly weaves the past, present, and future together, highlighting the continuity of the Palestinian struggle. He urges the passersby to take the past to the antique market, implying that history cannot be bought or erased. The poem asserts that the Palestinian people are the custodians of their own narrative, with the past serving as a powerful foundation for their present resistance and future aspirations.

“O Passersby among Transient Words” by Mahmoud Darwish stands as a profound testament to the Palestinian struggle for identity, resistance, and self-determination. Through its evocative imagery, powerful symbolism, and thought-provoking language, the poem captures the essence of the Palestinian experience and serves as a rallying cry for justice, dignity, and freedom. Darwish’s masterful use of literary devices and profound themes invites readers to contemplate the universal struggle for human rights and the unwavering spirit of those who refuse to be silenced.

The poem is translated by Hatem Al-ShameaKerchiefs Rigged with Whiteness

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