Qantara announces at the opening of its profile of the legacy of Mohamed Choukri that:
Mohamed Choukri’s books rank among the classics of modern world literature. The Moroccan author would have been 75 this month, but there is little to celebrate: all over the world, almost all his books are out of print.
It gives a portrait of Choukri and his literary work—received to worldwide literary acclaim—and then gets in to what happened after he died of lung cancer in 2003:
Mohamed Choukri was still receiving friends in his hospital room the evening before his death. He was cracking jokes and was very optimistic. He believed he had secured that which was most important to him: a posthumous home for his literary work.
He had in his possession a declaration attested by a notary, his last will and testament, in which he left his entire estate to a foundation that was to be run jointly by five presidents: Mohammed Ashari, the former minister for culture, Hassan Aourid, spokesman for the king, Hassan Neshmi and Mohamed Berada, both ex-presidents of the Writers’ Guild, and Abdelhamid Akkar, a university professor and a future president of the Writers’ Guild.
“After Choukri’s death, this document disappeared without a trace,” says Roberto de Hollanda, who was the author’s literary agent for many years. “I later contacted Mohammed Ashari and Hassan Neshmi, but I received no reply from them whatsoever.”
And what if a publisher wants to bring out a new translation of one of Choukri’s works?
The publishing houses who commission new translations of Choukri’s books or want to publish a further edition after expiration of the original contract have their hands tied because of family quarrels about the distribution of the inheritance.
A few of Choukri’s works have been translated into English, including (of course) For Bread Alone and Madman of the Roses. Sad to think that it will be a long time, if ever, before more will be made available.