Highly Acclaimed Spanish Bestseller
Dream of the Apples: Nathalie Handal’s Andalusian Interior
By Catherine Fletcher
While alternating stylistically between the narrative—tinged by the Romantic tradition—and the slightly surreal, much of Handal’s work is also marked by various forms of fragmentation. Within poems from all her collections, she often deconstructs the bodies of her subjects into their parts and houses into their elements: doors, walls, and windows. In Poet in Andalucía, Handal places her poetic self in a single geographic area—southern Spain and northern Morocco—for the first time. Perhaps the collection’s most intriguing poem is “Alhandal y las Murallas de Córdoba.” A meditation both on the etymology of the poet’s name and the source of identity, it is one of the few pieces in which Handal, a frequent visitor to the past, uses the future tense: She sifts through the Andalusian landscape, sifts through her memory, ponders her own future disappearance, investigates the appearance of her name on a Spanish announcement spelled in a way she had seen previously only in her native Bethlehem. In her journey she finds “things no one can take away”: “the taste of date on our tongue”, “the poems of the Sufis”, Córdoba’s legacy of tolerance, the Spanish language, orange trees, and her own name and its origins—the colocynth, a bitter medicinal plant used by Arab apothecaries. Handal’s work, so beautifully protean, has questioned and examined what can be lost: a country, languages, a missed rendezvous between lovers, the music of the earth. The transitory nature of life is common to the human experience—the bitter apple we all taste: so much of what we live and who we love just disappears. Poet in Andalucía recasts southern Spain through Handal’s eyes, exploring impermanence but also possessing a sense of ojalá. Some things can and do endure.
This book, and its author, are a treasure. It’s exceptional to find something as cohesive and engrossing as Poet in Andalucía. I highly recommend it and await Handal’s next journey.
– Mike Walker, Coal Hill Review
Handal’s newest collection is an ambitious work.
– Publishers Weekly
These poems make a beautiful reality for the poet, and for us, which is truer than mortar and brick. It’s with startling force that Handal builds an architecture for the wanderer.
– Washington Independent Review of Books
Poems of depth and weight and the sorrowing song of longing and resolve.
– Alice Walker
Nathalie Handal’s brilliant new volume of poetry, Poet in Andalucía — about Spain, about the Middle East, about shared destinies and hopes — touches me deeply: it reminds us of what’s inconsolable, of what’s multiple, of what’s irreducible, and what’s simultaneous.
Poet in Andalucía will be one of the most talked about poetry books of 2012, and beyond.
– Yolanda Castaño
Poet in Andalucía will fascinate readers with its endless journeys through national, literary, and personal identity. It’s an intriguing work. That duality — the mix of simple and complicated — helps make this collection a notable addition to contemporary poetry.
– Rain Taxi Review of Books
Looking at her poetry, I found a voice emerging in an honest, stripped language, and though it seems focused – narrowed — her poetry contains a quality of surprise that gives it an air of the other-worldly, the mysterious.
– Bernard van der Merwe, Stellenbosch Literary Project
There is something incredibly sincere about Nathalie Handal and her poetry. That seems like a rare thing in literature in the United States today. Perhaps that is because Handal is not exactly from the States: she is a world poet. She grew up in several different countries on different continents and learned their languages.
Like Rick Blaine, Nathalie Handal is a citizen of the world. Yet, unlike Blaine, Handal is a brilliant, poetic chronicler of the human condition and a philosopher of the most lyrical reaches. Known as a poet on the move, Handal provides the reader a beauty of language and image that unwaveringly commands attention.
In Nathalie Handal’s brilliant new volume of poetry, Poet in Andalucía. her eye abolishes time, combing all pasts into the resonant folds of the present. That metaphor of splitting, of one half running up against another, divided by a tenuous border, recurs in her collection.
– Simultaneity in Verse: On Nathalie Handal by Craig Epplin
If there is such a thing as a Renaissance figure among poets writing, that person is Nathalie Handal.
– Ed Ochester
– Al Hayat