The next LibyaSami Marawan Mobayed – Place 22): April 30 marks the twenty-fourth anniversary of the death of the great Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani, in a London hospital, in 1998.…
I was a student at the American University of Beirut at the time and we contacted him a few weeks ago, inviting him to hold a poetry evening on our campus, similar to the one he revived in 1995. Nizari replied that he would do so as soon as his health improved and he said he was always eager for Beirut and his university and his Syrian and Arab students but fate prevented us from reaching this evening.
I remember going to one of my Lebanese teachers and asking her permission to pass the exam because I wanted to attend Nizar’s funeral in Damascus. His response was: “Your permission is with you. Go and say goodbye to Nizar and be proud that you and your generation were the last generation to live in the era of Nizar Qabbani.”.“.
It was a solemn funeral, the rarest in the history of Damascus. Nizar was lying in a wooden box, wrapped in the Syrian flag, he could hear the mourners, but he did not respond by shouting: “Do not tell people where you are from… By the Levant, Al-Aras and Al-Ain… Departure of mountains and mountain lands… This is the Levant, uncle ”..
Nizar Siddiqui was in his early teens and I grew up memorizing his emotional and political poems. As time went on and as my interest in the contemporary history of the city of Damascus developed, I began to look for Nizar’s relationship with the cultural, social and political history of Damascus, away from poetry. Nizar was influenced by a number of men in his life, who ignited a spirit of challenge and change in him. They are his great-grandfather Abu Khalil Qabbani, his father Tawfiq Qabbani and the leaders of the National Bloc, whom Nizar spent his childhood and youth surrounded by, at his father’s house in the Muthannat al-Shahem neighborhood..
> Relationship with Abi Khalil
Nizar did not know his great-grandfather, Abu Khalil al-Qabbani, who died twenty years before his birth. However, his large image adorned the family home, with his damask veil and crucified turban, and his biography was not left on the lips of the elders of the Qabbani family..
The resemblance between him and his grandfather was enormous, who both deviated from the norms and challenged his traditional expectations from the conservative Damascus society. Abu Khalil decided to pursue acting, singing and theater directing, at a time when his father’s friends were waiting for him to follow the path of science (religious teachings) or become a merchant like the rest of the family. They expect him to have a future. at the confectionery and clothing factory owned by his father in the Al-Buzouriya market.
Both were subjected to various harassments by the sheikhs of Damascus: Abu Khalil was expelled from the Levant in 1882 when a decision was made forbidding him to act and a number of sheikhs and imams stood behind him. As for Nizar, he was fought by the same religious institution in the fifties because his poems spoke of love and flirting with women’s charms and called on them to liberate and break the bonds of patriarchal society..
When his first book, Samra Said to Me, was published, the judge of Damascus, Sheikh Ali Al-Tantawi, attacked him.“.
Nizari commented on this great resemblance between him and his inspirational grandfather, when he said: “Damascus in the forties was not ready to give anyone a grain of his rosary. Therefore, the reactions came hurtful … and stabbed. “..
Then he added: “When I think of the wounds of Abu Khalil, the cross he carried on his shoulders and the thousands of nails embedded in his flesh, my wounds seem insignificant to me, and my cross is small and small. I too have been struck by Damascus. with stones, rotten tomatoes and eggs, when I published the poem Bread in 1954. And hashish and the moon. The same turbans that demanded the hanging of Abu Khalil, demanded my hanging and beards filled with the dust of history that required. his head was looking for my head..
> Me Teufik Kabanin
Nizar was thirty-one years old on the day of his father’s death in 1954. From him he learned patience, peace of mind, and innovation at work. Haj Tawfik lived his early youth in Cairo, where he learned from the Italian and French communities the art of making clothes, nougat and chocolate. Upon returning to his homeland, he introduced the clothing industry to the city of Damascus, whose people knew only traditional sweets made with pistachios and cream. Damascus amazed with its products, as it was the first time people saw a sugar-coated almond and a handmade chocolate. He set up a confectionery factory near his house, where he worked for fifteen years, and Nizar helped him and his brothers during the summer holidays, and his famous saying was, “My father made revolution and clothes together.”.
In his autobiography: “My story with poetry”, Nizari talks about his father and the lessons he has learned from him, saying: “If I wanted to classify my father, I would classify him without hesitation among the workers, because he spent. Fifty years of his life inhaling the smell of coal and bags of sugar were covered with sugar, he returned to us from work in the alley of Muawiya every evening, under the waters of the winter gutters, as if he had been pierced. ship and I do not remember the face of my father stained with coal stains and his stained clothes with burning stains, every time I read the words of those who accuse me of being a bourgeois, belonging to the upper class and dynasties with blue. blood. What class and what blue blood are they talking about? My blood is neither royal nor chess, but ordinary blood is like the blood of thousands of good Damascus families who earned their living with honor, justice and fear. God. “.
> Nizar and the National Bloc
In the photo attached to this article, the Qabbani family land in Damascus is shown and has a large audience listening to national leader Fawzi Al-Ghazi, the author of Syria’s first republican constitution in 1928. Al-Ghazi stands in the rostrum, and yes to look a little closer, among those present we find a number of patriotic figures, such as Hashem Al-Atassi and Fakhri Al-Baroudi, and a small blond child, are Nizar Qabbani. No one can underestimate the degree to which a child is affected by such a blinding scene, so as if he is a curious child who loves knowledge and constantly asks about everything.
He must have asked his father why Fawzi al-Ghazi was absent from the National Bloc meetings at their home after June 1929. What was his reaction when Nizar learned that this young patriot, whom he applauded for a while long with those present, had died. of poisoning? The question was repeated in 1939, when Senegalese soldiers belonging to the eastern French army attacked Qabbani’s house and arrested Haxh Taufiqi for his patriotic activity..
This time the question was addressed to his mother and he was told in response to his question that “Abu Al-Mu’taz” was one of the leaders of the national movement in Syria, accused of financing the National Bloc and the campaign to boycott Zionist goods , helping the families of martyrs and educating their children. The father was imprisoned in Palmyra Prison in the middle of the Syrian desert and sentenced to hard labor, such as breaking stones under the blaze of the sun, and then transferred to Raml Prison in Beirut, where he spent more than ten years. month.
During his absence, Syrian leaders did not rest on their laurels for Haj Tawfik’s family, wife and children, such as Shukri al-Quwatli, Lotfi al-Haffar, Faris al-Khoury and others. Nizari responded similarly, who in his correspondence with the writer Salma Al-Haffar Al-Kuzbari in the sixties, he would start his words by calming down for her father, “Lutfi Bey”, after he was arrested at the time of separation. When he went to visit his literary girlfriend Colette Khoury, he asked her to go to her grandfather’s house, “Fares Beu”, to check on him. One day, during his diplomatic mission in London, Ambassador Fayez al-Khoury, Fares al-Khoury’s brother, asked him to come to his office, following the uproar in Damascus over the poem “Bread, Hashish and the Moon” and i told him:
““Calm Nizar’s nerves and make sure that all these dissonant voices that attack will be crushed by the wheels of the day and only you and your poetry will remain in the treasure of history.” Nizar commented on Ambassador Al-Khoury’s words many years later:.
Raseef 22, Sunday 1 May 2022