Nazih Abou Afach is unfortunately unable to attend the festival in person. Nonetheless, his poetry will be featured at selected events.
Nazih Abou Afach is a renowned Syrian poet, painter and musician. He was born in Marmarita, a village in the West of Syria in the Wadi Al-Nasaarah (‘Valley of the Christians’), in 1946. He lived for a time in Damascus, but returned to live in Marmarita a few years ago. He has worked in education, journalism and the civil service and is a member of the Syrian Writers’ Union.
His poetry is well known in the Arab world and beyond and his work – poetry and prose – has been extensively published since 1967 in Syria, Lebanon and Cyprus. Some of his writing has been translated into English and French.
Abou Afach’s collections include Al-Wajhu Illithi La Yaghiibu (The Face Which Does Not Fade; 1967), Allah Qariibun Min Qalbi (God Is Near My Heart; 1980) and Maa Yashbahu Kalaaman Akhiiran (What Resembles Talk Lately; 1997).
Abou Afach’s style is appropriately and arrestingly spare, often minimal, and he draws on the grammar and vocabulary of everyday speech rather than past poetic convention for his inspiration. His poetry often counterpoises the beauty and simplicity of natural things with the barrenness and brutality of the world of war and oppression around us. His works are not, however, attempts to escape from dark realities; rather they are efforts to engage with the world with urgency. In his recent poem ‘Tsunami’ he asks, “Must the scream of despair cause pain to the stone and the pillars of the temple to tremble/ Before philosophers and scientists acknowledge the sound/ Of one who suffers.” He also cautions, “We have the right not to believe the promises of those who have come to save us.” (in Al-Akhbar, 5 March 2011)
The audio recordings of Nazih Abou Afach’s poems that appear here on PIW were read by translator Asad Jaber at the 42nd Poetry International Festival, Rotterdam in 2011.
Al-Wajhu Allathi Laa Yaghriibu (The Face Which Does Not Fade), Homs, 1967
‘An Al-Khawfi Wa Al-Tamaathiili (On Fear and Statues), Damascus, 1970
Hiwaariyat Al-Mawti Wa Al-Nakhiili (Talk of Death and the Palm Tree), Damascus, 1971
Wishaa’un Min Al-‘Ashbi Li-Umahaati Al-Qatlaa (Blades of Grass for the Mothers of the Killed), Beirut, 1975
Ayahaa Al-Zamanu Al-Dayyiqu – Ayatuhaa Al-Ardu Al-Waasi’au (Oh Narrow Time, Oh Vast Earth), Damascus, 1978
Allahu Qariibun Min Qalbi (God Is Near My Heart), Beirut, 1980
Allaah Yabkii (God Cries), Al-Mada Publishing House, Damascus, 2001
‘Ahal At-Taabuut (People of the Coffin), Al-Mada Publishing House, Damascus, 2001
Indjiil Al-‘A’maa (The Bible of the Blind), Dar Al-Adab, Beirut, 2003
Al-Dhikrah Al-‘Anaaṣir (Memory of the Elements), Al-Mada Publishing House, Damascus, 2005
Ar-Raa’ii Al-Hamadjii (The Barbaric Shepherd), 2011