Farming Words

An-Nahar newspaper, a Kuwaiti daily, reported on Ashraf Dali winning the 2014 Manhae Grand Prize.

As a young boy, I used to visit my grandfather’s village. There, my stay was a mixture of enjoying nature and tracing folk stories. I still remember the magical green carpet of fields, where everything flying over was white; the flocks of cotton travelling the pages of the blue sky’s book, the birds of cattle egret jumping like ballerinas, and the dreams that were weaving my secret moments. In those old days I thought to grow up as a farmer, where life was easy, nature was generous and food was so tasty. I soon learned it was something I couldn’t be, when I failed in my first farming lesson.

I was told by my uncle to remove weeds out of his field; instead I cut the green pepper lines, and destroyed a whole harvest in its birthplace.

It was then when I decided to concentrate on something I know better- my words. I was a book worm; I am still, similar to that white silkworm eating green leaves of the tree where I used to rest in those old days.

But the fear of destroying good harvest grew with me. I was very keen about every single word, whether in writing poems, novels, articles, or even letters. I believed in the power of words, their abilities to build a new world, and their capabilities to destroy another.

Words are the heritage we leave behind. We still go after the words of our prophets, activists, poets, and novelists. The words of Jesus, Mohammed, Confucius and Buddha shaped our beliefs. The phrases of Gandhi, Nasser and Mandela made our histories. The lines of Han Yong-un (Manhae), Rabindranath Tagore and Omar Khayyam candled our souls.

It is farming words that will grow someday, somewhere, giving others the chance to be inspired with. Could I be one of those word farmers? I will devote my life to find the best word seeds, dig the suitable soils, and plant the right roots. Manhae shows me that seeds are grown. The life tree is fruitful. Following the path of the Korean activist, monk and poet Han Yong-un in life, love and literature will certainly come to a moment of truth.

And this is the moment of truth was revealed to me, when I was recognized by the prestigious committee of Manhae, and chosen to win the Manhae Grand Prize in Literature 2014.

The Road to Shamawes, Ashraf Dali’s novel translated into Korean

My first literary step to the good land of Korea was in 2008, when my first novel Shamawes, was translated and published in Korean. Six years later, I feel that more of my words have grown here, on the trees of Namsan Mountain, in the farms of Korean villages, and in the streets of old cities. It is a moment to celebrate with friends from Korea and the world.

Once I wrote, “In the heavy rains, no one feels, a lonely drop of water.”

But today, I believe that such a drop is flocking together with its friends. We form the River Nile, the Han River, the Ganga River and other sources of life that will continue farming words.
Our words.

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