Mahmud Darwish's Allegorical Critique of Oslo

The Palestinian poet Mahmud Darwish occupies a unique space in Arab culture and in the collective memory of Arabs as "the national poet of Palestine." This article provides a reading of one of Darwish's poems, "A Non-Linguistic Dispute with Imri' al-Qays," which was written after the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accord. The poem is read as an allegorical critique of Oslo and, at the same time, a retrospective contemplation of Darwish's own role in Palestinian politics, written in a style that displays Darwish's exceptional poetical skill and his masterly use of Arabo-Islamic history and mythology.
Sinan Antoon is a doctoral candidate in the department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2000 Middle East Studies Association of North America conference in Orlando, Florida. The author would like to thank Sherene Seikaly for her valuable suggestions.

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