One of the poets who played a leading role in the propagation of Baathist ideology in Iraq was Abd al-Razzaq Abd al-Wahid. Having published more than forty collections of poetry addressing topics like heroism in war, martyrdom for the nation and poems in praise of the leader, Abd al-Wahid was one of Saddam Hussein’s favorite poets. In my article, I will first examine the poet’s biography and his political and literary positioning before and after 2003 in relation to his poetic work of the 1980s, then analyze examples of literary criticism issued on this nationalist author. The central question relates to the extent to which the poet’s attitude toward his role during the Baathist era and the evaluation of his poetic work by Arab literary critics have changed after the fall of the Saddam regime. A comparison of a number of critical writings on this renowned poet not only offers valuable insights into apologetic literary criticism and Arab intellectual discourse today, but also contributes to an evaluation of Iraq’s recent cultural history and its (former) protagonists.
Simultaneously addressing the (Native) American and Palestinian/Israeli context, Maḥmūd Darwīš’s poem Ḫuṭbat al-Hindī al-aḥmar – ma qabla al-aḫīra – amāma al-raǧul al-abyaḍ (The ‘Red Indian’s’ Penultimate Speech to the White Man), published in 1992 to critically commemorate the ‘discovery’ of ‘America’ by Columbus in 1492, is a deep reflection about the violence of borders and frontiers created by white European invaders. In my article, I aim to answer the question of how the poem’s manifold boundaries (between colonizer and colonized; nature and culture; equality and hierarchization; the living and the dead; identity and otherness) are addressed and re-framed. Although partly essentializing cultural difference by drawing from a romanticized image of the “noble savage” (the “Red Indian”), the poem nevertheless finds a voice to raise crucial questions regarding the self-perception of European/western modernity, anticipating the recently discovered fact that (white) human agency has pushed ‘progress’ so far as to enable humanity to destroy itself, nature, and earth. In intertextual dialogue with key texts of de/coloniality and western modernity, I attempt to show how the poem confronts us with fundamental questions about humanity in the face of self-destruction.