Iterations of Loss: Mutilation and Aesthetic Form, al-Shidyaq to Darwish
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In a series of exquisite close readings of Arabic and Arab Jewish writing, Jeffrey Sacks considers the relation of poetic statement to individual and collective loss, the dispossession of peoples and languages, and singular events of destruction in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. Addressing the work of Mahmoud Darwish, Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq, Elias Khoury, Edmond Amran El Maleh, Shimon Ballas, and Taha Husayn, Sacks demonstrates the reiterated incursion of loss into the time of life-losses that language declines to mourn. Language occurs as the iteration of loss, confounding its domestication in the form of the monolingual state in the Arabic nineteenth century's fallout.
Reading the late lyric poetry of the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish in relation to the destruction of Palestine in 1948, Sacks reconsiders the nineteenth century Arabic nahda and its relation to colonialism, philology, and the European Enlightenment. He argues that this event is one of catastrophic loss, wherein the past suddenly appears as if it belonged to another time. Reading al-Shidyaq's al-Saq 'ala al-saq (1855) and the legacies to which it points in post-1948 writing in Arabic, Hebrew, and French, Sacks underlines a displacement and relocation of the Arabic word adab and its practice, offering a novel contribution to Arabic and Middle East Studies, critical theory, poetics, aesthetics, and comparative literature.
Drawing on writings of Jacques Derrida, Walter Benjamin, Avital Ronell, Judith Butler, Theodor Adorno, and Edward W. Said, Iterations of Loss shows that language interrupts its pacification as an event of aesthetic coherency, to suggest that literary comparison does not privilege a renewed giving of sense but gives place to a new sense of relation.
in relation to its loss. Here, poetry welcomes and shelters loss (“He said: The poem might Citation 44 receive loss as a guest/ a thread of light that shines in the heart of the guitar” [K, 194]), giving language to decline the harsh imposition of temporal boundaries, which the state form, if also institutions for reading, compels. Reading the Andalusi tradition of the rewriting of the nasib, Jaroslav Stetkevych has emphasized, “As echoes, these old things sound different now, and they sound
present without place. No one here found anyone who remembered how we left the door, a gust of wind. Or anyone who remembered when we fell off of yesterday. Yesterday shattered across the floor, shards gathered together by others, mirrors for their image, after us . . . Here is a present without place. Perhaps I’ll look after myself and scream at the Owl’s night: Was this miserable man my father, who would have me carry the burden of his history? Perhaps I’ll change within my name, and choose my
that follow I learn, in different ways, from this scholarship, to argue that the event of violence I study in the nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century texts I consider is already repeated in “later” events of citation and acts of linguistic performance. This violence enacts a temporal rupture that gives place to a sense of time and being in language, where the past is compelled to appear as if it belonged to another time, as if it were on the side of stillness and death, of “religion” and the
presentation or bringing forth into visibility of meaning, izhar al-ma‘na, through signs, dalalat, one of which is the utterance, lafz. It “makes the hidden clear, the absent present, and the distant near” (56). Ibn Jinni (932–1002) summarizes the privileging of intention where he defines language as “sounds with which each group expresses their intentions.”117 Nahu is the means by way of which such intention is clarified. This clarity is linked to knowing the difference between two moments in a
through him that the voice of the Qur’an resounded and he transmitted a family mystical tradition linked to an ancestor, Muhammad Cherki, whose Sufi experience is well known and has been preserved” ). El Maleh’s reading then points to a doubling of obligation (the death of the mother, the father) which further multiplies (in relation to the Qur’an and “a family mystical tradition”) complicating the “almost complete freedom” of which he writes. The analogy between painting and language is