‘Only Vagabonds Can Be Poets’

Translator André Naffis-Sahely is working on a forthcoming Selected Poems of Abdellatif Laâbi (Carcanet, 2016). As he does, poems have been trickling out here and there:

From the author's website
From the author’s website

The collection recently won English PEN’s “Writers in Translation” award; meanwhile, a different collection, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith and forthcoming from Archipelago, won a Hemingway grant.

Two Laâbi poems, trans. Naffis-Sahely, appeared recently  in the PEN Poetry Series — “My Mother’s Language” and the charming  “Burn the Midnight Oil.” Another long poem — “Letter to My Friends Overseas” — appeared in the summer edition of Asymptote, also trans. Naffis-Sahely.

A new collection of Laâbi’s work has also just appeared in Italian.

Laâbi — a poet, novelist, playwright, translator, and activist — was born in Fez, Morocco, in 1942 and began writing in the mid-’60s, which is when he helped found the influential literary magazine Souffles. He didn’t spend long editing the magazine before he was arrested for his trouble in 1972. He was sentenced to nearly a decade in prison and left Morocco for Paris after his release.

Laâbi has also written prose — his Bottom of the Jar was trans. Naffis-Sahely — and he’s also translated a number of Arab authors into French, including Mahmoud Darwish, Abdelwahab al-Bayati, and Hanna Mina. Laâbi received the Prix Goncourt de la Poésie in 2009, the Académie Française’s Grand Prix de la Francophonie in 2011, and the Prix Ecritures et Spiritualités in 2015.


The Quarterly Conversation: The Abdellatif Laâbi Interview

DoubleChange: Interview with Kristin Prevallet


ArabLit: Abdellatif Laâbi, Terra Incognita

Daily Star Lebanon: Dreams of the Past, Memories for the Future

Event Reviews and Interviews:

‘A Child of this Century’: Launching Abdellatif Laâbi’s Dual-language Chapbook

ArabLit: Majalla: Fighting Mental Prisons


Two hours in the train

“Glory to Those Who Torture Us”

“Far from Baghdad,” “Fingerprints,” “Knowledge Is Unforgiving,” “One Hand Isn’t Enough to Write with,” “The Manuscript,” and “The Word Gulag,” all at the Poetry Translation Centre