July Words Without Borders: New Story by Anouar Benmalek

The July 2010 issue of Words Without borders—Sports—features an interesting story titled “Penalty” by Moroccan-French author Anouar Benmalek.

This is not, of course, “Arabic literature,” as Benmalek writes in French. However, I  think Arabic is often at play in between and beneath the French words or French-writing Arab authors. The poet Abdellatif Laâbi puts it much more prettily than I:

I am perfectly bi-lingual: my birth-language is Arabic, my writing language is French. Perhaps what makes what I write unique is that the two cultures are intertwined. Even when I am writing in French, my Arabic language is there. There is a musicality in Arabic, and these words enter into my French texts. I think that people are not seeing the originality of this phenomenon which is currently world wide.

In any case, back to Benmalek’s story, which is certainly worth reading: It is an interesting exploration of memory, with lovely tentacles out to group memory, and how we can or can’t hold onto our values when memory is compromised. The writing is clear and vivid, the action is quick, the ending a little disappointingly pat, for me anyhow.

In that sense, I suppose, it’s very much a “sport” story: either you’ve got a win or a loss (or I suppose a draw, but within very clear borders).