Recently, the Radical Books Collective podcast conducted a poetry reading in honor of the late Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer. His poem “If I Must Die” was recited in 11 languages, 5 of which were African – English, Somali, Swahili, Arabic, and Amheric.
Founded by University of Connecticut professor Bhakti Shringarpure and Suchitra Vijayan, the Radical Books Collective is a global community of readers seeking to establish an “an alternative, inclusive and non-commercial approach to books and reading.” They curate events around books, including virtual book club discussions, seminars, etc.
The poetry reading was a part of the Read for Refaat week of action and events (January 15-21), when Radical Books Collective joined the Publishers for Palestine coalition to honor the life, work, and resistance of Dr. Refaat Alareer (1979-2023). Written in English in 2011, Dr. Alareer pinned the poem to this Twitter profile five weeks before his untimely death. He was killed with his family by an Israeli airstrike on December 7, 2023. He was only 45 years old.
The last words of the poem seem to be a premonition – “If I must die / let it bring hope, let it be a story.” Watch the powerful poetry reading in honor of Alareer below:
The translators depicted above gathered online from many parts of the world to commemorate Alareer’s rich, urgent and inspiring contributions to Palestinian resistance.
The following translators took part in the reading of “If I Must Die”. We have bolded the translations in African languages. Kudos to the translators who did such a great job honoring Alareer’s literary work:
- Meg Arenberg (in the original English)
- Ida Hadjivayanis (in Swahili, her own translation)
- Orhan Elmaz (in Albanian, translation by Genta Nishku)
- Farah Bakaari (in Somali, translation by Aziz Mahdi)
- Suchitra Vijayan (in Tamil, translation by Ponni and Mangai)
- Surafel Wondimu (in Amharic, his own translation)
- Zohra Saed (in Farsi, translation by Ahmad Rashid Salim)
- Greg Pierrot (in French, his own translation)
- David Acosta (in Spanish, his own translation)
- Bhakti Shringarpure (in Hindi, translation by Aparna Gopalan)
- Farah Bakaari (in Arabic, translation by Tamim)
Refaat Alareer was a Palestinian writer, poet, educator, scholar and activist. He was born in Gaza City in 1979 and earned a BA in English in 2001 from the Islamic University of Gaza, an MA from University College London in 2007 and a PhD in English Literature at the Universiti Putra Malaysia in 2017. Dr. Alareer taught literature and creative writing at the Islamic University of Gaza and co-founded the organization We Are Not Numbers, which matched experienced authors with young writers in Gaza, and promoted the power of storytelling as a means of Palestinian resistance. His published works include Gaza Writes Back: Short Stories from Young Writers in Gaza, Palestine (2014) and Gaza Unsilenced (co-edited with Laila El-Haddad, 2015) as well as numerous essays and poems. Dr. Alareer was a beloved teacher and his work is kept alive by his many students worldwide.
His death is an incredibly difficult loss for the literary community worldwide. Our hearts are with his family and with the Palestinian people during this time.