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On Artistic Freedom in the Nationalist Era

Salman Masalha

On Artistic Freedom
in the Nationalist Era


As I am not a state, I have
no secure borders nor an army
guarding its soldiers’ lives night and day and there is no
colored line drawn by a dusty general in the margins
of his victory. As I am not a legislative
council, a dubious
parliament wrongly called a house
of representatives, as I am not a son
of the chosen people, nor am I
an Arab mukhtar, no one will falsely accuse me of being
a fatherless anarchist who spits
into the well round which the people
feast on their holidays, rejoicing
at their patriarchs’ tombs. As I am not a fatalist or member
of an underground, building churches,
mosques and synagogues in the hearts of children
who will no doubt die for the sake of the
Holy Name in Heaven,
as I am not an excavation contractor
or earth merchant, nor a sculptor
of tombstones polishing memorials
for the greater glory of the dead,
as I have no government, with
or without a premier, and there is no
chairman sitting on my head, I can
under such extenuating circumstances
sometimes allow myself to be human,
to be a bit free.
*
Translated by Vivian Eden

Published: Books-Haaretz, July 2011
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Most recently, this poem, from the volume “Ehad Mikan” (“In Place,” Am Oved ), was chosen by the rock band Batsir 76 as the single for their new album, “Folk Yisraeli” (Israeli Folk ), which they will launch on July 9, 2011 at Tmuna theater in Tel Aviv.
***
For Hebrew, press here
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