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About the book
  • Published: 3 July 2014
  • ISBN: 9781448161553
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 80

Learning to Make an Oud in Nazareth

Ruth Padel’s powerful new collection on the Middle East

'Making is our defence against the dark...'

Through images of conflict and craftsmanship, Ruth Padel’s powerful new poems address the Middle East, tracing a quest for harmony in the midst of destruction. An oud, the central instrument of Middle Eastern music , is made and broken. An ancient synagogue survives attacks, a Palestinian boy in a West Bank refugee camp learns capoeira, and a guide shows us Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity during a siege. At the heart of the book are Christ’s last words from the Cross.

Uniting this moving collection is the common ground shared by Judaism, Christianity and Islam: a vision of human life as pilgrimage and struggle but also as music and making. With care and empathy, Ruth Padel suggests how rifts in the Holy Land speak to conflict in our own hearts. 'We identify. Some chasm / through the centre must be in and of us all.'

  • Pub date: 3 July 2014
  • ISBN: 9781448161553
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 80

About the Author

Ruth Padel

Ruth Padel is a prizewinning poet, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and Professor of Poetry at King’s College London. Her recent collections include Darwin: A Life in Poems, on her great-grandfather Charles Darwin; The Mara Crossing, on migration and immigration; Tidings: A Christmas Journey, and Emerald, a poignant elegy for her mother. She lives in London.

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Praise for Learning to Make an Oud in Nazareth

“There are points where one feels Padel is a poetic Daniel Barenboim. It is inlaid poetry... as if Padel were embroidering a tapestry. Each poem turns out to be an instrument and Padel knows how to play. Her command of register is masterly… There is no doubting Padel's accomplishment, her poems stand tall partly because she tends to rise about the personal.”

Kate Kellaway, Observer

“Padel is one of our most talented writers. She turns her multi-layered poetic attention to the Middle East, seeking peace and harmony through sensitive and moving poems that offer hope even as they reflect upon struggle.”

Bel Mooney, Daily Mail

“Lyrical and sensual, albeit with a keen awareness that in war zones, music, love and poetry are sidelined even as they become more vital. Padel skilfully juxtaposes the modern world with the ancient.”

Suzi Feay, Independent on Sunday

“Padel's great characteristic is her range. Making an Oud interweaves contemporary Middle Eastern politics, the history and culture of the Abrahamic religions, natural beauty and love poetry. Padel is not writing partisan polemic but attempting something much more difficult, a kind of cultural synthesis.”


“Superb collection… Sorrowful and elegiac...though it ends on a note not entirely without hope”

Lesley Mcdowell, Glasgow Sunday Herald

“Her prolific and passionate creativity is proof that “making is our defence against the dark””

Bel Mooney, Daily Mail

“This is a book of dark, broken melodies, consciously beautiful, underpinned by pain and terror”

Peter Scupham, Literary Review

“A poet of great eloquence and delicate skill, an exquisite image-maker who can work wonders with the great tradition of line and stanza. Her voice has an astonishing resonance. ”

Colm Toibin

“With extraordinary breadth of erudition, a sensitivity to different cultural environments and powerful visual alertness, this collection has all the characteristics we have learned to expect from Ruth Padel. Readers will be struck by the mature command of these poems as well as their great range of subject and feeling.”

Dr. Rowan Williams

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