Silencing the Sea follows Palestinian poets' debates about their craft as they traverse multiple and competing realities of secularism and religion, expulsion and occupation, art, politics, immortality, death, fame, and obscurity. Khaled Furani takes his reader down ancient roads and across military checkpoints to join the poets' worlds and engage with the rhythms of their lifelong journeys in Islamic and Arabic history, language, and verse. This excursion offers newfound understandings of how today's secular age goes far beyond doctrine, to inhabit our very senses, imbuing all that we see, hear, feel, and say.
Poetry, the traditional repository of Arab history, has become the preeminent medium of Palestinian memory in exile. In probing poets' writings, this work investigates how struggles over poetic form can host larger struggles over authority, knowledge, language, and freedom. It reveals a very intimate and venerated world, entwining art, intellect, and politics, narrating previously untold stories of a highly stereotyped people.
About the author
Khaled Furani is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Tel-Aviv University.
"Khaled Furani's Silencing the sea is a beautifully crafted, sophisticated exploration of the pursuit of a secular modernity among Arab poets . . . Furani has written a captivating, 'grand' book that will stimulate and inspire a wide community of readers."
—Michelle Obeid, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
"Especially in the North American context, this book will seem both exciting and unfamiliar in its approach, like an occasionally recurring dream in which poetics gives itself the latitude that other genres have long adopted. Furani's work helps to develop a methodology for a global poetics—as a social poetics that rereads the schemes and tropes of poetry and the genealogies of national poetries in the light of postcolonial, transnational, and global forces. Silencing the Sea stimulates excitement for alternative genealogies and literary histories, mappings of the world republic of letters that (at last!) include poetry in their cartographies of power, influence, circulation, and inequality."
—Walt Hunter, College Literature
"A provocative, innovative interdisciplinary inquiry into the relevance of both poetry and Palestine, this is a book for those pursuing Middle East studies, anthropology, and comparative literature . . . Highly recommended."
—B. Harlow, CHOICE
"This is a wonderful ethnography of contemporary Arabic poetry. Khaled Furani has made a significant contribution to a relatively neglected territory in the study of the secular. Silencing the Sea enlarges our understanding of the way modern pressures and seductions have led to the undermining of older sensibilities and the formation of new, and of how this process is reflected in Arabic poetry. This not simply a book for literary specialists, but for anyone interested in thinking about the different dimensions of secular experience."
—Talal Asad, City University of New York
"Silencing the Sea is good news: It ironically speaks of the redemptive power of the human word, as fractured as it can be, as opposed to the Divine word's overwhelming power. It engages the battle for secularism that Arab poets, in particular, are leading, as it is for them, and their societies, an existential and crucial issue. Furani follows their meandering poems, and thoughts, through strengths and imperfections, while answering implicitly Hölderlin's famous question: 'What are poets for in these destitute times?' by seemingly saying that by changing themselves these poets do change the world, at least by making chinks in the wall."
—Etel Adnan, author of Master of the Eclipse and Sitt Marie Rose
"Furani's illuminating conversations with contemporary Palestinian poets connect us to their differing understandings of their art and its changing forms. He locates these expressive choices in an analysis of secular currents and with respect to the predicaments of Arab life in Israel and under occupation."
—Brinkley Messick, Columbia University
"Khaled Furani's detailed and scholarly study takes us to the unattainable heart of poetry, whatever its category, out of which comes magical beauty."
—Maryse Conde, Columbia University, author of Segu and Victoire: My Mother's Mother