A List: French Maghrebi Literature Forthcoming in Translation in 2020

A list of titles we believe are forthcoming in 2020. This is an attempt to be completist, as far as is possible, so please add more in the comments:

The Simple Past, by Driss Chraïbi, translated by Hugh A. Harter (January 2020)

From the publisher:

The Simple Past came out in 1954, and both in France and its author’s native Morocco the book caused an explosion of fury. The protagonist, who shares the author’s name, Driss, comes from a Moroccan family of means, his father a self-made tea merchant, the most devout of Muslims, quick to be provoked and ready to lash out verbally or physically, continually bent on subduing his timid wife and many children to his iron and ever-righteous will. He is known, simply, as the Lord, and Driss, who is in high school, is in full revolt against both him and the French colonial authorities, for whom, as much as for his father, he is no one. Driss Chraïbi’s classic coming-of-age story is about colonialism, Islam, the subjection of women, and finding, as his novel does, a voice that is as cutting and coruscating as it is original and free.

The Olive Trees’ Jazz, by Samira Negrouche, translated by Marilyn Hacker (February 2020, Pleiades Press)

A poet-doctor born in Algiers, Samira Negrouche works not only in words, but also in collaborations with visual artists and musicians. Her first book in English, The Olive Trees’ Jazz, is forthcoming from Pleiades Press in February 2020, remade in English by Marilyn Hacker.

Read poetry by Negrouche, collected on ArabLit.

Our Riches, by Kaouther Adimi, translated by Chris Andrews (April 2020, New Directions)

From the publisher:

Our Riches celebrates quixotic devotion and the love of books in the person of Edmond Charlot, who at the age of twenty founded Les Vraies Richesses (Our True Wealth), the famous Algerian bookstore/publishing house/lending library. He more than fulfilled its motto “by the young, for the young,” discovering the twenty-four-year-old Albert Camus in 1937. His entire archive was twice destroyed by the French colonial forces, but despite financial difficulties (he was hopelessly generous) and the vicissitudes of wars and revolutions, Charlot (often compared to the legendary bookseller Sylvia Beach) carried forward Les Vraies Richesses as a cultural hub of Algiers.

Our Riches interweaves Charlot’s story with that of another twenty-year-old, Ryad (dispatched in 2017 to empty the old shop and repaint it). Ryad’s no booklover, but old Abdallah, the bookshop’s self-appointed, nearly illiterate guardian, opens the young man’s mind. Cutting brilliantly from Charlot to Ryad, from the 1930s to current times, from WWII to the bloody 1961 Free Algeria demonstrations in Paris, Adimi delicately packs a monumental history of intense political drama into her swift and poignant novel. But most of all, it’s a hymn to the book and to the love of books.

Tazmamart (Tazmamort), by Aziz BineBine, translated by Lulu Norman (April 2020, Haus Publishing)

You can read an excerpt on Words Without Borders. It opens:

The radio didn’t last forever, the battery died and we couldn’t replace it. Playtime was over. The owl returned, taking the radio’s place, but bringing what news? It had come for Mohammed Abdessadki, known as Manolo, who had himself returned from the first building. He couldn’t have made the most of the better conditions there and he fell ill.

The Punishment, by Tahar Ben Jelloun, translated by Linda Coverdale (April 2020, Yale University Press)

From the publisher:

This powerful account by a political pris- oner caught up in a catastrophic period in twentieth-century Moroccan history faithfully portrays the anguish of a youngman discovering the first stirrings of whatwill become a brilliant vocation as one of France’s most famous writers.

Mansour’s Eyes, by Ryad Girod, translated by Chris Clarke

From the publisher:

Mansour El Djezairi is on his way to his public execution. As his faithful friend Hussein looks on, the crowd calls for his head. Gassouh! Gassouh! It is a time when age-old rituals play out amid skyscrapers and are replayed on smartphone screens in the air-conditioned corridors of shopping malls. Set over the course of a single day in the Saudi Arabian capital, Mansour’s Eyes weaves together several historical pasts: the time of Mansour’s great-grandfather, the Emir Abdelkader; that of Algerian independence; and that of another Mansour, Mansur Al-Hallaj, a Sufi mystic executed in 922. In this lyrical and ambitious novel, Ryad Girod looks at the post-Arab Spring world as its drive toward modernity threatens to sever its relationship with the ethos of Sufi thought and mysticism.

The King’s Foolby Mahi BineBine, translated by Ben Faccini

From the publisher:

Sidi is dying.

In the last days of this all-powerful tyrant, his faithful court fool takes stock of the decades he has spent in the king’s service. For the many years have left certain indelible wounds.

During his service, the fool has been the king’s closest counsel, his most trusted companion and adviser, privy to the king’s deepest secrets and most intimate thoughts. It is an honoured position for which many other courtiers would pay a hefty price. Something the fool understands only too well, for this closeness has indeed come at a terrible cost.

What price the confidence of a great king? Is it stories, jokes, witty repartee? Or does the debt fall closer to home? Perhaps it must be paid far from the magnificent palaces, feasting and festivities of the royal court. Perhaps it must be paid in the death jails of a formidable prison fortress far out in the desert; a place so feared that few dare to speak its name . . .

All Men Want to Know by Nina Bouraoui, translated by Aneesa Abbas Higgins (Viking, August 2020)

In All Men Want to Know the author traces her blissful childhood in Algeria, recalling long trips across the desert with her mother and sister and hazy summer afternoons spent on the beach with her friend Ali,” the publisher said. “But Nina’s mother is French—moving to Algeria for love at a time when most Europeans were desperate to leave—and as civil war approaches, their sunny idyll gives way to increasingly hostile and violent outbreaks. When something unspeakable happens to her mother, the family flee to Paris.” More at The Bookseller.

Straight from the Horse’s Mouthby Meryem Alaoui, translated by Emma Ramadan (Penguin Random, September 2020)

From the publisher:

Jmiaa, a prostitute in Casablanca, lives alone with her daughter. A woman of strong character and quick wit, she doesn’t hold back when describing the world around her: her lover Chaïba, a crude, wordless brute, or Halima, her depressed fellow prostitute who reads the Qur’an between clients, or Mouy, her mother with implacable moral standards who seems completely ignorant of her daughter’s work. Then along comes a young woman, Chadlia–dubbed “Horse Mouth” by Jmiaa–who wants to make her first film about the life of this Casa neighborhood. She’s looking for an actress…

In this breakout debut novel, Meryem Alaoui gives us a vibrant picture of daily life in a working-class Morocco where everyone copes with difficulties through vitality and resourcefulness.

Coming tomorrow: A List: Arabic Literature Forthcoming in Translation in 2020