Abdellatif Laâbi: 11 Moroccan Writers Who Should Be Translated into English

I am not sure how, but I missed this wonderful interview Christopher Schaefer conducted with Abdellatif Laâbi when it came out on The Quarterly Conversation this June.  You should read it in its entirety, but I’ll just pull out Laâbi’s list of 10 under-translated Moroccan writers:

downloadHe says:

There is Driss Chraïbi, who hasn’t been translated very much, at least not enough. There are also French-language writers like Mahi Binebine, Fouad Laroui, Mohammed Leftah etc. Poets like Mostafa Nissaboury. Writers in Arabic like Mohamed Zefzaf, Driss Khoury, Mohamed Berrada, Mohamed Achaari, Mohamed Bennis, and Abdelkrim Tabbal, one of our great poets, and that’s all without speaking of Amazigh (Berber) writers or those who write in our dialect of Arabic. I compiled an anthology of Moroccan poetry about ten years ago that comprised texts by 50 Moroccan poets.

From the French:

Mahi Binebine: Binebine’s Horses of God has been translated into English by Lulu Norman, and it came out from Tin House and Granta this spring, although I haven’t seen a copy.

Fouad Laroui: This despite Laroui winning this year’s “Prix Goncourt de la Nouvelle” and being longlisted for the big Goncourt prize in 2010. This one’s hard to understand: Surely some publisher will pick up his witty, compelling work soon. (Laroui also writes poetry in Dutch.)

Mohammed Leftah: Died in 2008 having written many acclaimed novels; apparently he hasn’t been translated into Arabic, either. 

Driss Chraïbi: Iraqi writer Mahmoud Saeed, who at one point lived in Morocco, put Driss Chraibi’s Life Full of Holes on his list of “5 Books to Read Before You Die.” Laila Lalami translated an excerpt from his Le Passé Simpleas she notes, the book was translated, but has fallen out of print. It seems that Three Continents Press may have just brought out a translation of his Mother Comes of Agealthough I see no more about it, beyong the Amazon listing.


Mostafa Nissaboury: Along with Laâbi, one of the co-founders of the magazine Souffles. 

Abdelkrim Tabbal: You can find some of his work in translation; here, on Poetry International Web.

Mohamed Bennis: Some of Bennis’s work has been translated; see, for instance, his work in a recent Asymptote and more.

Of course, you will find many Moroccan poets in the Poems for the Millennium anthology of North African literature.

From the Arabic: 

Mohamed Zafzaf: As I posted over on the “Top 105” books of the 20th century — as voted by the Arab Writers Union — “The Woman and the Rose…has been translated into Spanish, but” this big novel by “‘the godfather of Moroccan writers’ has not made its way into English. I did find one story of Zafzaf’s, “The Sacred Tree,” in English translation. It’s in Modern Arabic Short Stories, a Bilingual Reader, which was published by Saqi Books.”

Driss Khoury / Driss El Khoury: This celebrated Moroccan novelist has not, I don’t think, had any work translated into English.

Mohamed Berrada: Berrada has been translated into English, although without receiving due attention. Berrada’s The Game of Forgetting was published by Quartet Books in 1987, as translated by Issa Boullata. His Like a Summer Never to Be Repeated was published by AUC Press, trans. Christina Phillips.

Mohamed Achaari: I believe Achaari has been signed by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing; in any case, his International Prize for Arabic Fiction-winning The Arch and the Butterfly surely will be out in translation soon.