The violence of war is rendered immediate and vividly personal in this powerful book by one of North Africa's premier writers and intellectuals. In The Rising of The Ashes, the poet summons dates in all their irrefutable numerical precision, and puts them to the quiet and imaginative work of record-keeping and record-creating — he is unrelenting in his work of excavation and tribute, in his litany of dates and names and places, of daily atrocities and pleasures.
The first of this book's two long poems addresses the human devastation wrought upon Iraq in the first Gulf War. The second depicts the displacement and killings of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and the Occupied Territories during the Israeli invasion in 1983, and the beginning of the first Intifada. The Rising of the Ashes is a quietly unrelenting, essential act of remembering that balances lyricism with horror. Vivid without being voyeuristic, these poems provoke both mourning and anger, and though highly specific in time and place, they are immediately comprehensible across the borders of nation and language. These are essential poems.
"I came to poetry through the urgent need to denounce injustice, exploitation, humiliation. I know that's not enough to change the world. But to remain silent would have been a kind of intolerable complicity."
—Tahar Ben Jelloun
"This is the book many of us, heartsick over the wastes of war, have been waiting for. How such elegant, calming awareness — healing in its careful attention and deliberate momentum — can spring from the tragedies of excruciating loss, is the wonder of poetry. Readers will feel grateful to Tahar Ben Jelloun for his loving conscience and generous focus. Cullen Goldblatt has rendered an exacting and graceful translation. Somehow, with no stridency, but with immense and thoughtful sorrow, a compassionate gaze and an urgency deep as all forgotten, precious worlds, Tahar Ben Jelloun creates the holy land of remembrance. A brilliant and necessary poet and text."
—Naomi Shihab Nye, author of 19 Varieties of Gazelle
"Scrutinized and judged in Europe and the Arab world in political and ethical terms almost completely absent from American intellectual expression, Tahar Ben Jelloun's work matters. He has grappled with the necessity to not abbreviate the humanity of oppressed people close to 40 years, as a poet, novelist, and essayist. In this concise translation, Ben Jelloun the poet gives the unidentified Arab, Iraqi, and Palestinian, the Human Man, Woman, and Child 'bread and a name.'"
—Ammiel Alcalay, author of Memories of Our Future
"As resonant today as when they were composed, these urgent, mournful poems demonstrate the power of speech to shatter the murderous silence of war."
—Susan Harris, editorial director, Words without Borders
"The Rising of the Ashes is exquisite poetry in both French and English. The writer and his translator have found an economy of words that speaks, as few other languages could, to the silence that follows massacre. Goldblatt's translation renders with eloquence and empathy the soul of Ben Jelloun's original. The English echoes the French in a rich and rare exchange — a dialogue between two powerful texts."
—Dominique Malaquais, Senior Researcher, CNRS / Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris
"A haunting book by one of the major francophone Arab writers of the last four decades. Ben Jelloun revisits genealogical moments and exhumes the unmarked and forgotten mass graves of recent history. What distinguishes his book, however, is that the poet is careful not to drape the dead in nationalistic flags or merely condemn the villains. The dead point to both empire and its local totalitarian gravediggers.
These poems are at once an elegant elegy and a postcard from the underworld of history carrying not only the names of the dead, but also fragments of their voices and faces.
This is essential reading for an amnesiac America and a frantic and forgetful 'first' world obsessed with navel-gazing while it destroys the species. Poetry performs one of its primary functions: an antidote to amnesia and dehumanization and a silent prayer for the absent. Words inhabit the interface between life and death. Ben Jelloun descends to the abyss of history where 'others’ were deposited and listens to its inhabitants as we all should, time and again."
—Sinan Antoon, author of I`jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody and The Baghdad Blues