Succession actor Brian Cox reads Refaat Alareer poem for Palestine Festival of Literature

Poet was killed in Israeli air strike on Gaza this month

Succession actor Brian Cox has performed a reading of Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer's If I Must Die. AFP
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Succession actor Brian Cox has performed a reading of Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer's If I Must Die.

Alareer died in an Israeli strike on Gaza on December 7.

In a one-minute video, the Scottish actor reads out the moving poem, which Alareer first published in 2011. On November 1, Alareer reposted the piece, and it has become a widely shared passage on social media. The poem has been misreported as Alareer's final work.

Cox read the piece for the Palestine Festival of Literature in London.

"Brian Cox is unable to join us on stage, so here he is, reading If I Must Die, by beloved Palestinian poet, teacher and martyr Refaat Alareer," Palestine Festival of Literature wrote on social media on Wednesday.

In the video, Cox is seated in a formal living room as he reads the poem directly into the camera.

On Wednesday night, the Palestine Festival of Literature is hosting a discussion in London entitled How Empires End.

According to organisers, it will feature conversations among "crucial voices about the ongoing war on Gaza and what we can do to stop it". Speakers include British poet Raymond Antrobus, who will talk about disability in war; actor Paapa Essiedu, who will read a poem; and prominent Palestinian journalists Yara Eid and Mohammed El-Kurd. The event will be livestreamed on YouTube.

Alareer was a poet, writer and professor of English literature at the Islamic University of Gaza. In 2014, he edited Gaza Writes Back, a collection of short stories by 15 young writers.

"Their words take us into the homes and hearts of mums, dads, students, children, and elders striving to live lives of dignity, compassion and meaning in one of the world’s most embattled communities," the blurb of Gaza Writes Back reads. "Readers will be moved by the struggles big and small that emerge from the well-crafted writing by these young people, and by the hope and courage that radiate from the authors’ biographies."

'If I Must Die' by Refaat Alareer

If I must die,
you must live
to tell my story
to sell my things
to buy a piece of cloth
and some strings,
(make it white with a long tail)
so that a child, somewhere in Gaza
while looking heaven in the eye
awaiting his dad who left in a blaze–
and bid no one farewell
not even to his flesh
not even to himself–
sees the kite, my kite you made, flying up
and thinks for a moment an angel is there
bringing back love
If I must die
let it bring hope
let it be a tale
Updated: December 14, 2023, 11:32 AM