Iterations of Loss: Mutilation and Aesthetic Form, Al-Shidyaq to Darwish

Iterations of Loss: Mutilation and Aesthetic Form, Al-Shidyaq to Darwish

Iterations of Loss: Mutilation and Aesthetic Form, Al-Shidyaq to Darwish

Iterations of Loss: Mutilation and Aesthetic Form, Al-Shidyaq to Darwish


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-firstcenturies. 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 ofcatastrophic 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 andits 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 ofsense but gives place to a new sense of relation.


I think
And there is neither fault in my doing so
Nor delusion
That I shall
Cut through the steel with a silk thread
Build distant tents with a woolen one
And flee from them, from her
And from me
Because I …
As if I

MAHMOUD DARWISH, Athar al-farasha

This is a book about loss. But to speak of loss is already to do so in relation to “the long familiar idea of time as that which passes away” and the destruction this idea and its proliferation impart. Loss, and with the dividing expansion of capital and the asymmetrical force of colonial, juridical violence, is to be left behind, the archaic debris of a time said to be no longer. Iterations of Loss turns to nineteenththrough twenty-first-century Arabic and Arab Jewish writing to read the time of loss, between and within languages, and to read the aporetical dimension of language, which loss gives. Already bereaved, loss disrupts the privileging of figures of sovereignty and autonomy in language, to gesture to a temporal excess, where language, in order to be itself, becomes something other than what it is. And language, like loss, stalls its mournful appropriation into the state and the figures it privileges. It forms the occasion for an ethical or political disruption of sense, to give place to ways of being and of being with others that occur as interrupted, interruptive events of form.


This book reads the relation of language, and languages, to the devastating events of loss that took place in the destruction of Palestine . . .

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