A mélange of Polish folk music and Oriental music was playing on a refreshing evening at an event titled Milosz Bel Araby (Milosz in Arabic) in Darb 1718. As the venue is known for, this performance was held outdoors, with the audience lying on orange bean bags strewn on the grass lawn. The event celebrates 100 years since the birth of Nobel-prize-winning poet, Miosz.
The translator of the poetry to Arabic, theatre professor Hanaa Abd El Fattah, gave a word about the nature of the translations. “It is a betrayal to translate poetry from one language to another,” he said “but we have tried to preserve the spirit of Milosz and the Polish language.”
Abd El Fattah then affirmed that the widespread notion that Egyptian readers do not read poetry anymore is faulty because the first edition of Milosz’s translated works sold out.
“Milosz’s poetry is universal,” added Abd El Fattah “it taps on general issues.” He then theatrically recited two of his poems Al Hob (Love), which was recited again in the performance and Lekaa (Meeting), which recaptures a moment long-evaporated from the universe.
Maria Pomianowska, a Polish instrumentalist, vocalist and composer, who studied cello at the Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw, performed, accompanied by a band of Egyptian and Polish performers.
The band played oriental instruments such as the tabla (oriental drums) and the nay (oriental flute), as well as western instruments like the violin and another Polish extinct instrument that resembles the violin called suka, an instrument played vertically on the knee or hanging from a strap.
Pomianowska usually plays traditional instruments, like the traditional Bulgarian gadulka (an instrument resembling Russian gudok) and Persian kamānche, both having origins in Byzantine lira as well as Celtic rota, Indian Sārangī, Turkish rebab, or Mongolian morin-huur.
Poetry recited included Amal (Hope), which compared the physical world to a garden viewed from the gate, saying that if one looks closely and wisely enough new flowers and stars appear. Another short poem recited was Endama Tashrok Al Shams (When the sun rises) contemplating on the truth of the world after being enchanted by women in colourful dresses. Other poems included Oghneya Levallois (The Song of Lavaillos) and Iman (Faith).
The night was concluded with a fast polka dance that was peppered with oriental influence. Pomianowska joked about driving the tabla player crazy with the fast track.
Czeslaw Milosz was born in Seteiniai, Lithuania. He completed his high school and university studies in Wilno, then a city belonging to Poland. A co-founder of a literary group, Zagary, he made his literary début in 1930, published in the 1930s two volumes of poetry and worked for Polish Radio. He spent most of WWII in Warsaw, working for underground presses.
In the diplomatic service of the People's Poland since 1945, he broke with the government in 1951 and settled in France, where he wrote several books in prose.
In 1960 he moved to Berkeley, at the invitation of the University of California, where he has been Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures since 1961.
In 1980, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. His works were translated into many languages including English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Lithuanian, Czech, Swedish, Hindi as well as Arabic.
Anyone who missed the performance can see it tonight, Saturday 15 October or Sunday 16 October.
Saturday, 15 October, 8pm
El Genaina Theatre in Al Azhar Park
Salah Salem Road
Sunday, 16 October, 10 pm
Cairo Jazz Club
197, 26th July St. in Mohandessein/Agouza.