Fady Joudah at MLA 2016: “A Brief History of Censorship of Palestinian Literature in English”

At the MLA 2016 Convention in Austin, Fady Joudeh, the Palestinian poet and translator, gave a paper that focused on the implicit embargo of Palestinian Literature, which has gone for decades. He discusses the prime but not sole example of such censorship in the Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 12.13.16 PMexample of the poetry of the great late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. For decades Darwish’s poetry was near-invisible in America, which was all the more noticeable considering his grand stature in the world of letters. More recently, this implicit embargo manifests itself differently, in a lack of exposure in mainstream literary outlets. Currently the situation inside the West Bank and Gaza is essentially one where checkpoints for access to books dominates. Recently, several Palestinian or Arabic authors with Palestinian connections have been denied entry into the US. The implication of this implicit embargo has contributed to the continuation of seemingly inevitable erasure of Palestinian presence especially in the English language. The politics of dispossession and occupation persist in literature. In English there is little meaningful knowledge of Palestinian literature while knowledge, visibility and appreciation of Israeli literature abounds in comparison. Joudah eloquently calls for more translation of Palestinian literature and greater critical interest in Palestinian letters.

To download a pdf of Joudah’s MLA paper, click this link: Fady Joudah MLA 2016

Fady Joudah is a Palestinian American physician, poet, and translator. He is the recipient of the Griffin International Poetry Prize in 2013, for his translation of Ghassan Zaqtan’s Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me. Joudah’s poetry won the Yale Younger Poets Prize, and his translations of Mahmoud Darwish’s work earned him a Banipal prize from the UK and a PEN USA award. Alight and the ebook Textu, which is composed on cell phone in character count, are his most recent poetry collections from Copper Canyon Press.

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