An epic poem written in French by Moëz Majed, one of the foremost Arab poets writing today, has been translated into English by Dr Norbert Bugeja. Titled Rhapsody for a Shore in Flames, the poem was translated from the French original, Chants de l’Autre Rive, which was published by Fata Morgana in 2013 accompanied by original work from celebrated calligrapher Nja Mahdaoui.
Acknowledged today as one of the most significant pieces of poetry to have emerged from Tunisia over the past decade, the poem captures the spirit of post-2011 Tunisia through a mastery
of poetic style unique to Majed’s pen. Rhapsody for a Shore in Flames consists of 227 verses organised over a sequence of ten sections.
Bugeja has worked closely and intensively with Majed in order to render the French original into English, with a view to retaining the nuanced and complex timbre of this poem — a mystical, often hauntingly cryptic tour de force of modern-day Tunisia. ‘Rhapsody for a Shore in Flames’ is at once a profoundly political, yet deeply personal piece that evinces a stylistic elegance all of its own. Majed’s mastery in the use of pauses and silences, caesura, exclamation, lyric and his haunting internal rhythms work to achieve a lasting legacy in verse — one that, in one key or another, can speak to and across the generations.
The seductive opening of the poem lures its reader in such that it absorbs them, layer after layer, into the wealth of its arcane range of meanings: ‘This is a flame of pure Barus camphor | Flavour of empires consumed by great release. | Flavour of a slow Orient, | Flavour of ambergris and lust, | Exquisite flavour of laziness as a shy adolescent love, twisting in the throes of exile.’
The entire translation of ‘Rhapsody for a Shore in Flames’ has recently appeared in prestigious Bengali literary magazine Torkito Tarjoni, edited by Shantanu Ghosh and Anindita Datta.
The poem can be accessed in its full version at the following link: http://torkitotarjoni.in/literature/poems-by-moez-majed/
Möez Majed has been a guest writer at the 2015 edition of the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival organised by Inizjamed, and has also delivered the lecture ‘An Arab Spring or Just a Tunisian Exception?’ in the lead-up to the 2015 edition of the MMLF.