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March 2016

Crossing Boundaries: Morocco's Many Voices

Image: Hicham Benohoud, Untitled, Oil on Canvas, 2013 Courtesy of the artist and Galerie D’Art L’Atelier 21

This month, Words without Borders features writing from Morocco. The work in these pages—translated from French, classical and Moroccan Arabic, and Tamazight—explores questions of privilege, sexism, repression, and the tension between tradition and modernity to reveal the richness of this underrepresented literary culture. Fouad Laroui's diplomat loses his pants but keeps his wits. Poets Siham Bouhlal and Ahmed Bouanani meditate on love, loss, and the past. Mohamed Leftah pens an anguished account of a suicide, and Abdallah Zrika finds his text has a life of its own. In revealing portraits of relationships between the sexes, Khadija Arouhal decries the restricted roles of women, while Malika Moustadraf's young pauper seethes with resentment and lust. Mourad Kadiri imagines a backstory for the habitués of a popular café. In their first English publications, Mohamed El Khadiri depicts a sexual transaction turned confession, and Soukaina Habiballah dissects a rose. We thank our guest editor, Emma Ramadan, who contributes three translations and an illuminating introduction. Also this month, we bring readers three poets writing in one of China’s vibrant minority languages, Uyghur, in a feature translated and introduced by Joshua Freeman.

Crossing Boundaries: Ten Moroccan Writers

These authors are doing important things in post-independence Moroccan writing, a period fueled with a new energy, vitality, and honesty.

The Curious Case of Dassoukine’s Trousers

So, nichts pairs of pants and Europe awaits me at nine o’clock sharp.

From “Photograms”

I will paint my death on a canvas of autumn

A Red Lighter in the Heart of M.

You tell her things she isn’t supposed to hear.


From “The Dove-Text”

But the world that had disappeared around me has returned.

Anatomy of the Rose

The blooming petals: a navel.


Infinite Fall

Her best years were burnt to ash by a searing fidelity to the memory of her dead husband.

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

I would like to hide in your kiss.


The Red Triangle Café

One folded like a switchblade, one open like a book


His dreams were full of his future invasions of all those blonde women’s beds.

They Told You

They told you / That your feet should be nailed to the household!


Book Reviews

Olja Savičević’s “Adios, Cowboy”

Reviewed by Ratik Asokan

A gritty, down-and-out debut novel from one of Croatia's “lost generation.”

Ji Xianlin’s “The Cowshed - Memories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution”

Reviewed by Wenguang Huang

A memoir calling attention to the tremendous injustices wrought during China's cultural revolution.

Sergei Lebedev’s “Oblivion”

Reviewed by Ratik Asokan

In form, Oblivion is like a detective story. This investigation turns frighteningly political, however, when it leads him to Russia’s northern Tundra region, which once housed Stalin’s gulags.

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