A psalm for Giulio Regeni and us


Today I went to the remembrance ceremony for Giulio Regeni, in front of the Italian embassy in London. Many Italian and British researchers were there. What happened to him could have happened to us and to all committed researchers like he was. We are all distressed and filled with hanger for what we perceive as an attack to academic freedom, which is also an attack to the joy of being human. The point for us – for the many ‘us’ that still believe in that freedom and that joy – is to do not stop to remembrance, but to turn our distress into something powerful, generative and beautiful. We need to meet and to discuss the issues that we face while doing fieldwork; to start talking again one to the other; to demand better training, protection and insurance from our employers. In Cambridge a few of us are slowly moving in this sense. If this won’t necessarily avoid further attack on our freedom, it will at least make us stronger and better organised. (In this sense, please sign the petition to ensure a full investigation of Giulio’s death).

At the ceremony today some of Giulio’s friends distributed a text by the Syrian poet Adūnīs. I am copying it here, in remembrance of Giulio and as a sign of the beauty we have to fight for.

Adūnīs, Psalm, 1961

He comes unarmed like a forest, like a destined cloud.
Yesterday he carried a continent and changed the
position of the sea

He paints the back of day and creates daylight out of
his feet, borrows the night’s shoes and waits for
what will not come

He lives where the stone becomes a lake, the shadow a
city – he lives and fools despair, wiping out the
vastness of hope, dancing for the soil so it can yawn,
for the trees so they can sleep

And here he is speaking of crossroads, drawing the
magic sign on the forehead of time
He fills life but no one sees him. He turns life into
foam and plunges into it. He turns tomorrow into a
prey and hopelessly pursues it. His words are
engraved in the direction of loss loss loss

Doubt is his home, but he is full of eyes.

He is the wind that knows no retreat, the water that
does not return to its source. He creates his own
kind starting from himself – he has no ancestors and
his roots are in his footsteps.

He walks through the abyss in the form of the wind.