22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Taha Muhammad Ali

Portrait Taha Muhammad Ali
© Nina Subin

Taha Muhammad Ali was born in Saffuriya, a village in Galilee, Palestine, in 1931. He attended primary school but was unable to continue his formal education because it was his duty, as a boy, to support his family. During the Arab-Israeli War in 1948 his village suffered from heavy bombing. His family was able to flee to Lebanon and a year later, Taha Muhammad Ali returned to Israel, where he settled in Nazareth and opened a souvenir shop. At this same time he devoted himself to literature. He taught himself classical Arabic as well as English and began writing poetry. The first of his four volumes of poetry was published rather late, when he was fiftytwo. His first book of stories was published in 2003. His poetry collection »Never Mind: Twenty Poems and a Story« (2000) is available in English. A major Palestinian poet, Taha Muhammad Ali is esteemed primarily for his plainspoken and quietly sophisticated poetry. His poems mainly concern personal memories juxtaposed with political events. An important source of inspiration for his poetry and short stories is Saffuriya, his childhood village, a place inextricably bound to memories of life in that time and place. Simple people stand at the centre of Taha Muhammad Ali’s works. One of his most well-known poems is »Abd el-Hadi Fights a Superpower«, dating from 1973, where the eponymous protagonist is an ordinary man to whom the idea of revolt against injustice is remote. In »Post-Operative Complications Following the Extraction of Memory«, also written in 1973, the year of the Yom Kippur War, the speaker describes himself as »a camel fleeing the slaughterhouse«. His later poems are increasingly marked by longing, hope, and bittersweet reminiscence. Taha Muhammad Ali has a powerful style of writing, using structures based on classical Arabic poetry. However, he does not yield to embellishment in his diction, but tends towards simple words and images. He has appeared alongside Aharon Shabtai and his English translator Peter Cole in readings in Israel, the US, and Europe. The public were as much interested by the force of the poetry as by the courage of the poets to point in this way towards a possible coexistence in Israeli-Palestinian everyday life. Taha Muhammad Ali lives in Nazareth.

The author died on October 2, 2011. 

© international literature festival berlin