The Syrian Kurdish poet, translator and novelist Jean Douste began his writing life with poetry by issuing two collections of poetry in the Kurdish language, and he became famous for them among Kurdish poets who write poetry in Kurdish rather than in Arabic, and this is rare among Syrian writers of Kurdish origins, as many of them wrote poetry in Arabic.
After that, Doust was busy translating from Arabic into Kurdish, and vice versa, so he translated some works by the most famous Kurdish writer Salim Barakat and the Iraqi poet Badr Shaker Al-Sayyab, and translated from Kurdish into Arabic a number of works dealing with Kurdish folklore, such as “The Epic of Mem and Zein”, as well as dictionaries in both languages . Read also Books without decades and bitter experiences … novelists talk about the scenes and conditions of Arab publishing The language of Dhad without a visa .. Non-Arab writers have transformed it into a mother language and were creative with itThe Syrian war … a sad narrative with different rhythms
But Jean Douste, who was born in Kobani, north of Aleppo, in 1965, became famous in the Arab arena after publishing a number of novels in the Arabic language. the past.
Since 2014, when his first novel was published in Arabic, until 2020, Jean Douste issued 12 novels in Arabic, as if he was issuing two novels every year, and perhaps this means that he wrote many novel manuscripts and then decided to issue them in recent years, and this indicates in another way his dedication to writing. Of all kinds.
“Poems forgotten by al-kharb in the poet’s pocket”, published by Dar Dhifaf, is the third and newest collection of the Syrian Kurdish poet, novelist and translator Jean Douste, but it is the first poetry collection that he wrote in Arabic directly and not in Kurdish, in which he wrote his two previous poetry collections.
This collection, which is less than 100 pages long, is divided into 4 sections. But before entering the poems in the four sections, we will find a subtitle on the threshold of the book, which is that the collection is a “poetic biography.” Even without this direct connotation, the reader would have discovered that it is a poetic biography of Jean Douste, who left Syria permanently in 2000 to Germany, and held her nationality years ago.
Contrary to normal traffic, this group starts from a section entitled “The threshold of exile” when “many years ago, a plane took me to Europe” to escape from the security man who was chasing him back home. “And when the years passed / The silk of exile exhausted my body / I realized that the dog security man overpowered me: / He stole the homeland from me / Folded it like a five-pound paper / and tucked it into his pocket.”
Over the 20 years he spent so far in exile, there are more memories of leaving the homeland than living at home. These “20 years” are repeated in her memories as if the past and exile were one bundle, as if it were two continuous decades of absence and living in this absence, and during that “the exile rat / lends my strange soul / as if it were a fragile biscuit.”
But in the meantime, things were dissipating at home throughout his absence. Those things, like the mother, the father, the village, the olive trees, and the graves were parallel to their scattering in exile, they dissipate in their absence, and they dissipate while waiting for him and his absence. Alienation does not mean for him to leave his homeland, but rather to “leave the homeland / and spend the rest of your life / searching for it.”
Reconstruction of the past
As he goes into exile, we find that he has descriptions, definitions and plans burdened by high emotion, while Jean Douste is busy reviving that past that he lived at home, a long time spanning 35 years. But those years were fast anyway, as one of us usually spends them studying, reading, university, ideas, friends, writing and love, so those years that he stayed in at home seemed as if they were also in exile, as long as they passed away from the family and the birthplace.
This makes us think that Dost will provide more details about his birthplace, his family and his village in the following three sections: “The Rubble Biography,” “Poems The Poet Has Forgotten in the Pocket of War,” and “Elegy of the Olive Field.” But we will find few details, and they may be fleeting, about the father. He wrote, his prayers, and his cane that was broken in half because of the war, about the mother and her flowers and trees and her long wait, and we will not find anything about family members from the brothers and sisters, except for a little about his “displaced” sister, nor about the love and exile that books and readings make. Like “a poetic biography.”
Instead, unlike what Jean Douste erased from his biography, we will find more details about the war that later destroyed his village and study city, Aleppo, and his entire country. Although Jean Douste did not live the details of that war, that fear, fear, want, destruction, and life that folds under the rubble, he presented the bulk of his collection of poetry about what he did not live there.
And the fact that Jean Douste did not live those details, he dealt with them in a way that made him live them in some way, by mixing what he lived with what happened in his absence, it seems as if he lived what happened in his absence as well. In other words, by mixing the past he lived with the present he missed. “In my neighborhood / the bombs started to explode / where the echo of the kisses echoed / like the call to prayer / several times a day.” Or as if he says, “The same door / I knocked on / for many years / with a trembling, sometimes angry hand / because my mother opened it with her sweet smile. / The same door / Fooled bomb fragments knocked on it / It opened to a house inhabited by silence / and ruin.”
The third section, titled “Poems Forgotten by the Poet in the Pocket of War,” which is an exchange for the title carried by the poetry group, seems to be located outside this group, and perhaps its better place if it were in the final section, as it contains short prose poems that seem like a judgment and final confessions. But it still carries the high load of flex that connects all four sections. “If only they would choose / between the country and the exile / I would have chosen your eyes.” Or “the stone with which your foot stumbled / As you crossed / our dusty street / It was envied by all the stones of the neighborhood / even the stones of the mihrab / in our old mosque.”
Back to poetry
Returning to poetry after 12 novels made us ask Jean Douste about his motivation to make a comeback.
He told Al-Jazeera Net, “I wrote 4 novels about the war and the revolution in Syria after several other novels before the war. Despite my accusation of excessive poetic language in the novel, I felt that there is an intensification that I strongly need to talk about the Syrian situation under the war and the revolution.”
He added, “Poetic condensation based on small daily details that carries with it extremely powerful emotional charges is not available in the novel.
He added, “I went back to poetry to achieve my goal of capturing the fleeing moments that the novel could not catch up with. Only poetry can distill many ideas into one phrase. The war and my inability to express it in the novel is what pushed me back to the safe haven of poetry. It is our tent from which we got out. To the world of the novel, and to it we return whenever the novel’s narrow alleys and lanes narrows.
Poems forgotten by the war in the poet’s pocket are short prose poems that try to mix between the tangible and the imperceptible, as well as between the one who lived and the one who has passed through absence, poems that remind us of the Kurdish poet Sherko Beks (1940-2013) or even the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmat (1902-1963), In writing about that dissonance between synonyms, lives and events during exile, torment, longing, and misunderstanding with violence, short poems for short breaths during war, about fragile but memorable personalities and places.