Mahmoud Darwish is the poetic voice of the Palestinian people. One of the most acclaimed contemporary poets in the Arab world, he is also a prominent spokesman for human rights who has spent most of his life in exile. Returning to Palestine in 1996, he settled in Ramallah, where he surprised his huge following in the Arab world by writing a book of love, "The Stranger's Bed" (1998), singing of love as a private exile, not about exile as a public love. "A State of Siege" (2002) was his response to the second Intifada, his testament not only to human suffering but to art under duress, art in transmutation. The 47 short lyrics of "Don't Apologise for What You've Done" (2003) form a transfiguring incarnation or incantation of the poet after the carnage. "The Butterfly's Burden" is a translation of these three recent books.
MAHMOUD DARWISH was born in 1942 in the village of al-Birweh in Galilee, Palestine. His family fled to Lebanon in 1948 when the Israeli Army destroyed their village, returning secretly to the newly created state of Israel after a year. From 1970 to 1996 he lived in Moscow, Cairo, Beirut, Cyprus and Paris, finally settling in Ramallah. A member of the PLO's Executive Council, he wrote the 1988 Palestinian Declaration of Independence, resigning in opposition to the Oslo accords. His many honours include the Lenin Peace Prize, the Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom, the French medal for Knight of Arts and Letters and the Prinz Claus Award from the Netherlands. He has published over 20 books of poetry.