Lighthouse for the Drowning

Lighthouse for the Drowning

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Author: Jawdat Fakhreddine

Translators: Huda Fakhreddine and Jayson Iwen

Publisher: BOA Editions (2017)

Presented bilingually, this first US publication of Jawdat Fakhreddine—one of the major Lebanese names in modern Arabic poetry—establishes a revolutionary dialogue between international, modernist values and the Arabic tradition. Fakhreddine’s unique voice is a breakthrough for the poetic language of his generation—an approach that presents poetry as a beacon, a lighthouse that both opposes and penetrates all forms of darkness.

“‘Words . . . are the lost homeland,’ Jawdat Fakhreddine claims in his ruthlessly self-scrutinizing Lighthouse for the Drowning. Like Paul Celan and Taduesz Rozewicz, words are not the way back to what’s been lost, but rather they comprise the very ‘rubble and remains’ of their losses. They carry as well the echoes of the ‘guiding voices’ that ‘have died.’ Fakhreddine’s dilemma, like Celan’s and Rozewicz’s, is to know what feelings and perceptions to trust. As a result, out of his lost Lebanon, out of his disillusionment in politics, he finds a spirit in poetry ‘that flows from deep and rises effortlessly / to flicker like the passing sky.' If this sounds evanescent, it’s not because the constant pressure of his lost homeland and of words seek to countermand any hope of finding a way out of history’s dark and confusing labyrinth. Written twenty years ago, Lighthouse for the Drowning is a clear and concise description of the present.”

–Michael Collier

Lighthouse for the Drowning brings to the attention of an Anglophone readership a complete poetry collection (published for the first time in Arabic in 1996) by the prominent Lebanese poet and critic, Jawdat Fakhreddine. In the detailed Introduction to the translated collection (the first translator being the poet’s own daughter), the collection is deftly situated within a context that lies between the tradition of pre-modern Arabic poetry and the quest for modernity, the combination of these two sources of inspiration being a pertinent aspect of the poet’s own muse. The language and sound of the original verse is described as being ‘simple and intimate,’ but a reading of the collection, whether in its original Arabic or in this accomplished translation, makes it abundantly clear that those qualities are an intrinsic part of the poet’s aspiration to forge his own path within the variegated contexts of modern Arabic poetic creativity. The challenges inherent in the process of translation, translating poetry in general and this particular collection in particular, are also discussed—the preparation of an original ‘literal’ version by the native-speaker of Arabic, the process of ‘carrying across’ the ideas and images of that version into another cultural context, and the difficult task of reconciling the two. The resulting English version of the collection is a clear token of such a successful collaborative process.”

–Roger Allen