Auszüge aus einem Interview mit „Banipal“, No. 2/1998.
How I got to Beirut is an interesting story. In '67 I was 22 or 23, the perfect age for adventure, for cutting north, because you are afraid of nothing. No money! Nothing! You have to go! At the time, everybody thought I was going by airplane, with a ticket and passport. He had no idea I had no ticket. In fact I had no money. I sold a few books and made about 44 dinars. And no passport of course! No-one would give me a passport!
Jabra (Boulus‘ editor in Baghdad) gave me the manuscript of King Lear (his translation of it) to give to Yousef Al-khal (editor of Shi’r magazine in Beirut) to be published - which I took for two months across desert. I crossed the desert to Hassaca and then to Homs and then to Damascus - and then to Beirut and that's a tremendous adventure in my life. I'm still writing about it. It's a very symbolic thing in the life of all the prophets and poets - what they call the dark night of the soul. Well, the desert you cross is like another world! Truly it was like that and I was living a vision.
When I walked into Dar Al-Nahar publishing house in Beirut with the manuscript of King Lear in my hands, and saw Yousef Al-Khal sitting at his desk, it was like yesterday. He said: 'I told you!" He looked like he was expecting me, it was incredible.
I had crossed the desert on foot, with no suitcase, nothing, only a small bag with the manuscript of King Lear and some of my poems in a notebook I still have with me here today.
One day I went to Shi'r magazine and Yousif Al Khal said: "What is this?" There are secret police looking for you. "What have you done?" But I never told him the story. I never told him that I had crossed the borders without papers. In fact, I started sleeping on the Rocha, the place where lovers jump from, like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and in friends' apartments.
One day, when I was really sick of it all, I went to the police station. They put the handcuffs on me and told me: "We were looking for you!" I stayed in jail for a few days -
Ghada Al-Saman, who was a very powerful writer at the time, knew the Lebanese president, and through him she brought the captain of the jail in his pyjamas one midnight to release me, but there was one condition -I had to leave Lebanon, and either go back to Iraq or somewhere else. 'Somewhere else!" I said.
Yousif Al Khal helped me a lot. We went to the American Embassy and he told them about this young man who had translated two anthologies of American poetry in Shi'r magazine and introduced the beat generation of poets to Arab readers.
So the Ambassador asked me about American literature. I started with Walt Whitman, and then came to the new names which the Ambassador had never heard of and probably will never hear of, and he said: "Enough! You got it." So they gave me a paper, although I still had no passport.
That is how I got to New York. I borrowed $50 or $60 and went to New York without knowing anybody, no money, nothing, alone. I cannot believe even now, how I survived, nor how I got to San Francisco, which was my final destination because I had read and written about San Francisco before even seeing it.
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