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Articles tagged "Moroccan Literature"

First Read—From “The Tongue of Adam” by Abdelfattah Kilito

How, from Babel onward, can we explain the plurality of language? In The Tongue of Adam, translated from the French by Robyn Creswell and forthcoming from New Directions, Moroccan writer Abdelfattah Kilito explores this and other enigmatic questions related to translation, comparative religion, and lexicography.   Babels The question of an original language arises when multiple languages are found in a state of compe­tition or rivalry. Every inquiry into the tongue of Adam hopes...

From “Tazmamartyrs”

Translator’s Note: Tazmamart was a secret prison for political prisoners built in the wake of a second failed coup d’état against King Hassan II of Morocco in 1972. Aziz BineBine was one of the soldiers caught up in that day’s events who found themselves condemned to a 2 x 3 yard underground cube in notoriously inhumane conditions for eighteen years. Over half of Tazmamart’s prisoners died there. Tahar Ben Jelloun’s This Blinding Absence of Light (which...

“Infidels”  by Abdellah Taïa

In the wake of this month’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, pundits from across the political spectrum have argued over the language used to describe and understand the fraught cultural, social, and political stakes surrounding this horrific act of violence. To some, the shooting is an act of radical Islamic terrorism. For others, the Orlando attack is better understood as the zenith of a wave of deadly mass shootings fueled by a gun culture run...

An Interview with Najat El Hachmi

Words Without Borders speaks with Moroccan-Catalan writer Najat El Hachmi about language, identity, and the possibilities and limits of translation. Writer Najat El Hachmi (left) and her novel La filla estrangera (right) Najat El Hachmi was born in Morocco in 1979 and moved with her family to Catalonia at age eight. She has a degree in Arab Studies from the University of Barcelona, and has published one nonfiction book—Jo també sóc...

From the Translator: On “A Red Lighter in the Heart of M.”

Collusion in French Watermelon Sugar. Collaboration through a Common Denominator. Abbaye Sainte-Marie de Lagrasse, a Benedictine abbey rebuilt in the late eight century, and the location of the translation residency where Chris Clarke met Mohammed El Khadiri, whose story A Red Lighter in the Heart of M. Chris translated for the March 2016 Words without Borders issue on Moroccan literature. (Photo: Chris Clarke) In the summer of 2012, I attended a weeklong...

From the Translator: On “They Told You”

Olivia Baes's translation of Khadija Arouhal's They Told You appears in the March 2016 Words without Borders issue on Moroccan literature. When Emma Ramadan asked me to translate Khadija Arouhal’s poem “They Told You,” I was honored and excited. I was also a little bit hesitant when I found out that Arouhal, a young Moroccan woman, writes in Tamazight, a language I was unfamiliar with. I already find translating poetry daunting—what with...

An Interview with Fouad Laroui

Words Without Borders caught up with Fouad Laroui, whose Prix Goncourt-winning story was published in WWB's Moroccan literature issue. We spoke about creativity, dislocation, the absurd, and his forthcoming collection, The Curious Case of Dassoukine’s Trousers (Deep Vellum). Words Without Borders hosted Fouad in conversation with his translator, Emma Ramadan, and the London Review of Books's Adam Shatz at the Center for the...

Crossing Boundaries: Ten Moroccan Writers

I went to Morocco for a year in 2014 to translate a book of poetry by Ahmed Bouanani. I was originally introduced to Bouanani’s work in the summer of 2013 by Omar Berrada, the director of the library at the international arts residency Dar al-Ma’mûn, located just outside of Marrakech, where I would volunteer for the year. From my first day in Morocco, I tried to keep my eyes and ears open for more Moroccan writers whose work resonated with me, for writing that was doing...

The Curious Case of Dassoukine’s Trousers

“Belgium really is the birthplace of Surrealism,” sighs Dassoukine, staring into the distance. I don’t respond because this phrase seems like a prologue—and in the face of a prologue, what can you do but await what follows, resigned. My commensal examines his mug of beer suspiciously, even though we are, after all, in the country that saw the birth of this pretty blonde, sometimes brunette, child—in an abbey, I’m told. The server eyes us. In this superb...

From “Photograms”

Our country has no more warriors only timeworn fig trees beaten thoroughly by the thousand winds of our plight. The barefooted angels with pathetic faces at the bottom of our ramparts die with each new light. The scent of childhood is now nowhere to be found no chance of nursery rhymes or sunshowers what happened to the hours of ancient romance our dreamy obsession with Al-Buraq’s powers? Oh that horse-woman with the mane flowing longer than the clouds over our houses crumbling...

A Red Lighter in the Heart of M.

The weight of the world is visible in your eyes, heavier and fuller than the generous breasts of the unfamiliar girl seated across from you. She tells you her name is Hiba and says she lives in the next neighborhood over. She looks at you, dumbfounded, while you continue to play with the lighter that someone forgot in your apartment. You light it and let it go out, and think of the swamp of despair swallowing your heart. Hiba stands up and walks toward the large mirror. She adjusts her...

From “The Dove-Text”

The Arabophone poet Abdallah Zrika composed a volume of French prose poems, La Colombe du texte (The Dove-Text), during his three-month residency at the Centre International de la Poésie Marseille in 2002. The following is an extract. The highest degree of solitude is not reached when you cannot open the door for more than two days, but when no fly enters through the window. I do not know the degree of solitude of the trees around me, or if they haven’t known...

Anatomy of the Rose

When the rose perceived the distance between itself and the earth, it brought forth its thorns. When the rose realized that a single leg couldn’t take it anywhere, that it was voiceless and mostly had no echo, it thought of fragrance. The blooming petals: a navel. The stem: a rope that binds it to the earth’s deep womb. That rose will be born someday in a lover’s hand or between the shores of a book. © Soukaina Habiballah. By arrangement with the...

Infinite Fall

In Infinite Fall, his second book, Mohamed Leftah takes up one of the “small true facts of the past” (Stendahl’s term). In Leftah’s hometown, a high school boy leaps to his death in front of his classmates. Leftah, one of the boys who witnessed this act, replays the scene in slow motion, and from it opens a meditation on homosexual love, repression, and bigotry, as performed in a small town in Morocco in the 1960s. This “little chronicle” (a...

From “Dreams of a Berber Night, or The Tomb of Thorns”

Your pain Scars my blood With a fire Always smoldering   Your smile Escapes Their chains To light up My body   I sink Into the darkness Of your night To drink it in   Heart in     embers I cross Your night   I would like to hide myself in you   chisel time to the rhythm of your heartbeat cover the rose in the sky with your sheet I would like to sleep in your kiss   not wake up only dream in your night I would like to be...

The Red Triangle Café

How I adore the café  door             there’s a newspaper             and a seat and, you know, I mean, that means I know             all the latest news. In and out flapping about             Waiter! one Lipton tea and my number . . . I dialed it on my...

Delusion

He left the house cursing everything at the top of his voice—from the two elderly people who had brought him into this rotten world in the first place to his sister who had married a French man, gone off with him to his country, and hadn’t kept her promise. He remembered what she’d said in the airport: “I only married this Christian for your sakes. One month, and you’ll have all the papers you need to all catch me up over there. Don’t worry!” He...

They Told You

Stick a toothpick of silence in your mouth! That your word should never bear witness! That your song should never be the echo of fire While a fire is being prepared for you in the afterlife! They told you That your feet should be nailed to the household! That you should never reach a market or a beach! They told you That you are your father’s when you’re young!    That you are your spouse’s when you’re married! That you are your grave’s once...

The Garden of Tears

Translator's note: Driss and Souad are in their late twenties and recently married. Driss is a nurse and Souad is a cook at one of Marrakech’s finest restaurants. Their lives mirror those of the average Moroccan working class: confined to badly paid jobs in a country ruled by a monarchic kleptocracy. Driss and Souad work hard and are hoping to save enough money to buy their own home. During one of her evening shifts, Souad is assaulted by a drunken government officer: Police...

Tahar Ben Jelloun’s “The Happy Marriage”

Just as Tolstoy’s allusion to the particularities of unhappy marriages leads the readers of Anna Karenina to suspect rough times ahead, the title of Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun’s latest novel, The Happy Marriage (Melville House Books; translated by André Naffis-Sahely), indicates that what will follow is likely to be anything but harmonious. This is very much the case: the majority of the novel is devoted to a painter’s description of the gradual...

My Father’s Antenna

The rumor started to spread in the beginning of autumn, just after the first rains. Soon it became a certainty: the Belbal family had acquired a television set. To tell the truth, the villagers didn’t really know what a television set was, but that only served to enhance the tale. The watchman at the clinic was the first to recount how workers dressed in blue overalls had appeared one fine morning before the Belbals’ door and how they had unloaded an enormous crate from an old...

from Biography of Ash

There, where my body seemed to lay a great distance from me, I put my hand on my leg, on my fingers, and I couldn't tell they were mine. My thighs. My legs. My waist. Everything was dry and withered. It was the dryness that scared me. Every time I placed my hand on a part of my body, it was as if I had placed it on a piece of damp wood. By the third day after I had been blindfolded, it seemed to me that I was one of the walking dead. I began to notice that my body was becoming...

from “The Rising of the Ashes”

TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: La remontee des cendres (The Rising of the Ashes) is the title of a small text, written in French by the Paris-based Moroccan author, Tahar Ben Jelloun. It was published by Editions du Seuil in 1991, in a bilingual edition, the Arabic translation rendered by Iraqi poet Kadhim Jihad. The book is composed of two poems, the first dated February-April 1991, bears the title of the book, The Rising of the Ashes, and addresses the devastation of the Gulf War on Iraq...

from “The Last Wager: A Detective Novel”

Abdelilah Hamdouchi's The Last Wager takes place in modern-day Casablanca. Othman is an unemployed thirty-two-year-old Moroccan married to a wealthy seventy-three-year-old French woman, Sofia, who owns a restaurant in an affluent part of town. Just before this scene, Othman has a rendezvous with his beautiful young mistress, who tells him she has run out of patience waiting for his marriage to end. Here, Detective Alwaar is called to a crime scene in the middle of the night. When he...

from “May the Sun Shine Tomorrow”

1 Malik Ben weighed 300 pounds on the day he decided to have his name removed from the Yellow Pages. Lugging all that weight around day after day had gotten to be a chore, which is what prompted his second resolution: to go on a diet. Malik had dark features. Black hair, which took on a reddish sheen-a kind of auburn he rather liked-whenever he spent too much time in the sun. Brown eyes, the same shade of brown as in the paintings of the old Dutch masters. Pupils that sometimes glowed...

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