Translate This! Khadija Marouazi’s ‘Biography of Ash’

Publishing Perspectives recently ran a feature on “Authors from the Arab World: Translator Recommendations,” and one of the books recommended by translator Alex Elinson was Khadija Marouazi’s Sirat al-ramad, or Biography of Ash:

Over email, Elinson added that Biography of Ash was published in the time — the early to mid-2000s — when “fictional and non-fictional writings on the Years of Lead were coming out like never before,” and that it was a work that “aimed to creatively express and document what had, for so long, remained inexpressible.”

Marouazi is a member of the Moroccan Organization for Human Rights and a professor of modern literature in the Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Department at Ibn Tofail University in Kenitra. Biography of Ash was her debut.

From the excerpt on Words Without Borders:

There, where my body seemed to lay a great distance from me, I put my hand on my leg, on my fingers, and I couldn’t tell they were mine. My thighs. My legs. My waist. Everything was dry and withered. It was the dryness that scared me. Every time I placed my hand on a part of my body, it was as if I had placed it on a piece of damp wood. By the third day after I had been blindfolded, it seemed to me that I was one of the walking dead. I began to notice that my body was becoming frighteningly emaciated. I continued to deteriorate as a result of the torture, and was constantly dizzy. As soon as I woke up and touched my body, I felt like collapsing again.

I disappeared into slumber and woke up to the sound of scratching underneath my bed of cardboard. The scratching continued, and that’s what annoyed me. The sound began to move from under this bed, directly to my ear. I jumped up violently, and with considerable effort. I pulled the cardboard up from where it lay and shook it a little, hoping that the source of the scratching sound would fall from one of its folds. I got down on the floor to look at some of the holes in the walls. In the right hand corner, I discovered a burrow. I threw myself violently to the opposite corner. There was a tail curling up into it as fast as a flash of lightning. I held my breath. The tail turned over and the head appeared. It was a mouse! With what remained of my strength, I rushed to the door and proceeded to bang on it. I was screaming at the top of my lungs when the Hadj entered my cell with keys in hand. I didn’t know what he was expecting of me. Nor did I know what I was expecting of myself after all of this screaming. Finally, I surprised him with a request to use the toilet.

Keep reading the excerpt on WWB.

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