Nizar Qabbani

Nizar Qabbani

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Nizar Tawfiq Qabbani (21 March 1923 – 30 April 1998) was a Syrian diplomat, poet
Poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

 and publisher. His poetic style combines simplicity and elegance in exploring themes of love, eroticism, feminism, religion, and Arab nationalism
Arab nationalism
Arab nationalism is a nationalist ideology celebrating the glories of Arab civilization, the language and literature of the Arabs, calling for rejuvenation and political union in the Arab world...

. He is one of the most revered contemporary poets in the Arab world
Arab world
The Arab world refers to Arabic-speaking states, territories and populations in North Africa, Western Asia and elsewhere.The standard definition of the Arab world comprises the 22 states and territories of the Arab League stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the...

.

Early life


Nizar Qabbani was born in the Syrian capital of Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 to a middle class merchant family. Qabbani was raised in Mi'thnah Al-Shahm, one of the neighborhoods of Old Damascus. Qabbani studied at the national Scientific College School in Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 between 1930 and 1941. The school was owned and run by his father's friend, Ahmad Munif al-Aidi. He later studied law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

 at the Damascus University, which was called Syrian University until 1958. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in law in 1945.

While a student in college he wrote his first collection of poems entitled The Brunette Told Me. It was a collection of romantic verses that made several startling references to a woman's body, sending shock waves throughout the conservative society in Damascus. To make it more acceptable, Qabbani showed it to Munir al-Ajlani
Munir al-Ajlani
Munir al-Ajlani was a politician, writer, lawyer, and scholar. He made history as the youngest Syrian minister...

, the minister of education who was also a friend of his father and a leading nationalist leader in Syria. Ajlani liked the poems and endorsed them by writing the preface
Preface
A preface is an introduction to a book or other literary work written by the work's author. An introductory essay written by a different person is a foreword and precedes an author's preface...

 for Nizar's first book.

Diplomatic career


After graduating from law school, Qabbani worked for the Syrian Foreign Ministry, serving as Consul or cultural attaché in several capital cities, including Beirut
Beirut
Beirut is the capital and largest city of Lebanon, with a population ranging from 1 million to more than 2 million . Located on a peninsula at the midpoint of Lebanon's Mediterranean coastline, it serves as the country's largest and main seaport, and also forms the Beirut Metropolitan...

, Cairo
Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...

, Istanbul
Istanbul
Istanbul , historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople , is the largest city of Turkey. Istanbul metropolitan province had 13.26 million people living in it as of December, 2010, which is 18% of Turkey's population and the 3rd largest metropolitan area in Europe after London and...

, Madrid
Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

, and London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. In 1959, when the United Arab Republic
United Arab Republic
The United Arab Republic , often abbreviated as the U.A.R., was a sovereign union between Egypt and Syria. The union began in 1958 and existed until 1961, when Syria seceded from the union. Egypt continued to be known officially as the "United Arab Republic" until 1971. The President was Gamal...

 was formed, Qabbani was appointed Vice-Secretary of the UAR for its embassies in China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

. He wrote extensively during these years and his poems from China were some of his finest. He continued to work in the diplomatic field until he tendered his resignation in 1966. By that time, he had established a publishing house in Beirut, which carried his name.

Poetic influences


When Qabbani was 15, his sister, who was 25 at the time, committed suicide because she refused to marry a man she did not love. During her funeral he decided to fight the social conditions he saw as causing her death. When asked whether he was a revolutionary, the poet answered: “Love in the Arab world is like a prisoner, and I want to set (it) free. I want to free the Arab soul, sense and body with my poetry. The relationships between men and women in our society are not healthy.” He is known as one of the most feminist and progressive intellectuals of his time.

The city of Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 remained a powerful muse
Muse
The Muses in Greek mythology, poetry, and literature, are the goddesses who inspire the creation of literature and the arts. They were considered the source of the knowledge, related orally for centuries in the ancient culture, that was contained in poetic lyrics and myths...

 in his poetry
Poetry
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

, most notably in the Jasmine Scent of Damascus. The 1967 Arab defeat also influenced his poetry and his lament for the Arab cause. The defeat marked a qualitative shift in Qabbani's work - from erotic love poems to poems with overt political themes of rejectionism and resistance. For instance, his poem Marginal Notes on the Book of Defeat, a stinging self-criticism of Arab inferiority, drew anger from both the right and left sides of the Arab political dialogue.

Personal life



Family


Nizar Qabbani had one sister, Wisal; he also had three brothers: Mu'taz, Rashid, and Sabah. The latter, Sabah Qabbani
Sabah Qabbani
Sabah Qabbani was appointed ambassador of Syria to the United States by President Hafez Al-Asad in 1974. The post had been vacant since 1967 when diplomatic relations between Syria and the United States were severed following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Ties between the two countries were...

, was the most famous after Nizar, becoming director of Syrian radio and TV in 1960 and Syria's ambassador to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in the 1980s.

Nizar Qabbani's father, Tawfiq Qabbani, was Syrian while his mother was of Turkish
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 descent. His father had a chocolate factory; he also helped support fighters resisting the French mandate of Syria
French Mandate of Syria
Officially the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon was a League of Nations mandate founded after the First World War and the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire...

 and was imprisoned many times for his views, greatly affecting the upbringing of Nizar into a revolutionary in his own right. Qabbani's great uncle, Abu Khalil Qabbani
Abu Khalil Qabbani
Abu Khalil Qabbani was a Syrian playwright and composer. He is considered the founder of the short musical play in Arabic theatre. His play Abu al-Hassan al-Mughaffal caused a wave of protest as a result of his mockery of Caliph Harun al-Rashid, and ended with a decree by the Ottoman government...

, was one of the leading innovators in Arab dramatic literature
Arabic literature
Arabic literature is the writing produced, both prose and poetry, by writers in the Arabic language. The Arabic word used for literature is adab which is derived from a meaning of etiquette, and implies politeness, culture and enrichment....

.

Marriages


Nizar Qabbani was married twice in his life. His first wife was his cousin Zahra Aqbiq; together they had a daughter, Hadba, and a son, Tawfiq. Tawfiq died due to a heart attack when he was 22 years old when he was in London. Qabbani eulogized his son in the famous poem To the Legendary Damascene, Prince Tawfiq Qabbani. Zahra Aqbiq died in 2007. His daughter [Hadba]http://fenshop.wordpress.com/2009/04/06/testing/, born in 1947, was married twice, and lived in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 until her death in April 2009.

His second marriage was to an Iraqi
Iraqi people
The Iraqi people or Mesopotamian people are natives or inhabitants of the country of Iraq, known since antiquity as Mesopotamia , with a large diaspora throughout the Arab World, Europe, the Americas, and...

 woman named Balqis al-Rawi, a schoolteacher whom he met at a poetry recital in Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

; she was killed in a bomb attack by guerrillas on the [Iraqi embassy] in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war
Lebanese Civil War
The Lebanese Civil War was a multifaceted civil war in Lebanon. The war lasted from 1975 to 1990 and resulted in an estimated 150,000 to 230,000 civilian fatalities. Another one million people were wounded, and today approximately 350,000 people remain displaced. There was also a mass exodus of...

 on 15 December 1981. Her death had a severe psychological effect on Qabbani; he expressed his grief in his famous poem Balqis, blaming the entire Arab world for her death. Together they had a son, Omar, and a daughter, Zainab. After the death of Balqis, Qabbani did not marry again.

Late life and death


After the death of Balqis, Qabbani left Beirut
Beirut
Beirut is the capital and largest city of Lebanon, with a population ranging from 1 million to more than 2 million . Located on a peninsula at the midpoint of Lebanon's Mediterranean coastline, it serves as the country's largest and main seaport, and also forms the Beirut Metropolitan...

. He was moving between Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

 and Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, eventually settling in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, where he spent the last 15 years of his life. Qabbani continued to write poems and raise controversies and arguments. Notable controversial poems from this period in his life include When Will They Announce the Death of Arabs? and Runners.

In 1997, Nizar Qabbani suffered from poor health and briefly recovered from his sickness in late 1997. A few months later, at the age of 75, Nizar Qabbani died in London on April 30, 1998 of a heart attack. In his will, which he wrote in his hospital bed in London, Nizar Qabbani wrote that he wished to be buried in Damascus, which he described in his will as "the womb that taught me poetry, taught me creativity and granted me the alphabet of Jasmine." Nizar Qabbani was buried in Damascus four days later in Bab Saghir
Bab Saghir
Bāb Saghīr , also called "Goristan-e-Ghariban", is an ancient cemetery and street in Damascus, Syria, with tombs on either side of the road...

. Qabbani was mourned by Arabs all over the world, with news broadcasts highlighting his illustrious literary career.

Poetry


Qabbani began writing poetry when he was 16 years old; at his own expense, Qabbani published his first book of poems, entitled The Brunette Told Me , while he was a law student at the University of Damascus in 1944.

Over the course of a half-century, Qabbani wrote 34 other books of poetry, including:
  • Childhood of a Breast (1948)
  • Samba (1949)
  • You Are Mine (1950)
  • Poems (1956)
  • My Beloved (1961)
  • Drawing with Words (1966)
  • Diary of an Indifferent Woman (1968)
  • Savage Poems (1970)
  • Book of Love (1970)
  • 100 Love Letters (1970)
  • Poems Against The Law (1972)
  • I Love You, and the Rest is to Come (1978)
  • To Beirut the Feminine, With My Love (1978)
  • May You Be My Love For Another Year (1978)
  • I Testify That There Is No Woman But you (1979)
  • Secret Diaries of Baheyya the Egyptian (1979)
  • I Write the History of Woman Like So (1981)
  • The Lover's Dictionary (1981)
  • A Poem For Balqis (1982)
  • Love Does Not Stop at Red Lights (1985)
  • Insane Poems (1985)
  • Poems Inciting Anger (1986)
  • Love Shall Remain My Lord (1987)
  • The Trilogy of the Children of the Stones (1988)
  • Secret Papers of a Karmathian Lover (1988)
  • Biography of an Arab Executioner (1988)
  • I Married You, Liberty! (1988)
  • A Match in My Hand , And Your Petty Paper Nations (1989)
  • No Victor Other Than Love (1989)
  • Do You Hear the Cry of My Sadness? (1991)
  • Marginal Notes on the Book of Defeat (1991)
  • I'm One Man and You are a Tribe of Women (1992)
  • Fifty Years of Praising Women (1994)
  • Nizarian Variations of Arabic Maqam of Love (1995)

Other works


He also composed many works of prose, such as My Story with Poetry , What Poetry Is , and Words Know Anger , On Poetry, Sex, and Revolution , Poetry is a Green Lantern , Birds Don't Require a Visa , I Played Perfectly and Here are my Keys and The Woman in My Poetry and My Life , as well as one play named Republic of Madness Previously Lebanon and lyrics of many famous songs of celebrated Arab singers, including:
  • Mohammed Abdel Wahab
    Mohammed Abdel Wahab
    Mohammed Abdel Wahab , also transliterated Mohammed Abd el-Wahaab was a prominent 20th-century Arab Egyptian singer and composer...

  • Abdel Halim Hafez
    Abdel Halim Hafez
    Abdel Halim Ali Shabana commonly known as Abdel Halim Hafez , is among the most popular Egyptian and Arab singers and performers. In addition to singing, Halim was also an actor, conductor, business man, music teacher and movie producer...

  • Fairuz
    Fairuz
    Nouhad Wadi Haddad , famously known as Fairuz is a Lebanese singer who is widely considered to be the most famous living singer in the Arab world and one of the best known of all time...

  • Kathem Al Saher
    Kathem Al Saher
    Kadim Al Sahir , is an Iraqi singer, composer, and poet. He has been dubbed the "Caesar of Arabic Song", "George Michael of the Arab world", "Iraq’s Diplomatic Ambassador to the world", and "Iraq’s Ambassador for Peace"....

  • Khalid Al Shy'kh
  • Umm Kulthum
  • Latifa
    Latifa
    Latifa Bint Alayah Al Arfaoui , better known as Latifa , is an Arab pop music singer, Latifa standing for gentle in Arabic.-Early life:...

  • Majida El Roumi
    Majida El Roumi
    Magida El-Roumi was born in Kfarshima, Lebanon, on December 13, 1956. She is a Lebanese singer and a soprano, who started her musical career in the early 1970s when she participated in the talent show, Studio El Fan on Télé Liban and won the gold medal for best female singer...

  • Asalah
    Asalah Nasri
    Assala Mostafa Hatem Nasri is a Syrian musical artist.- Early life and career :Asalah was born in Damascus, Syria to a middle class couple. Mostafa Nasri, Asalah's father, was a revered Syrian composer and singer. Asalah began her musical career by performing patriotic, religious, and children's...


And his verses would remain popular after his death, and put to song by Arab pop-music stars such as Kazem al-Saher and Latifa
Latifa
Latifa Bint Alayah Al Arfaoui , better known as Latifa , is an Arab pop music singer, Latifa standing for gentle in Arabic.-Early life:...

.

Other Languages


Many of Qabbani's poems have also been translated into the English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, both individually and in collections of selected works. Some of these collections include:
  • On Entering the Sea (1998)
  • Arabian Love Poems (1998) translated by Bassam Frangieh
    Bassam Frangieh
    Bassam Frangieh is a scholar of contemporary Arabic literature and culture. He is best known for his pedagogical innovations in the study of the Arabic language, as well as his translations of modern Arabic poets and novelists. Frangieh also lectures on the society and culture of the Arab world...

     and Clementina R. Brown
  • Republic of Love (2002) translated by Nayef al-Kalali

External links