Abdellatif Laâbi Wins 2021 Roger Kowalski Award for Collection ‘Presque Riens’

Last week, Moroccan poet, translator, and memoirist Abdellatif Laâbi won the 2021 Roger Kowalski Award for Poetry, for his October 2020 collection, Presque riens (Almost Nothing):

The annual Roger-Kowalski Prize was created in 1984 by the city of Lyon. The 7,500 euro prize pays homage to the poet Roger Kowalski (1934-1975) and is awarded annually to a book of poetry by a living poet.

According to his publisher, in this book Laâbi questions the frailties of the body and the hopes of the spirit, which continues to struggle. He recalls being a prisoner in Morocco and how poetry saved him “just as it could help the reader to save themselves.”

In the book, he looks toward his own death, quoting Omar Khayyam as saying, “Rien ne manquait au monde quand nous n’étions pas nés / À l’heure de la mort pareil au même sera !”

His publisher, Le Castor Astral, calls it, “A song of hope despite everything.”

Goncourt-winning Moroccan poet Abdellatif Laâbi — co-founder of the seminal journal Souffles — has a number of works in English translation, including Beyond the Barbed Wire: Selected Poemstr. Naffis-Sahely; The Bottom of the Jar, tr. Naffis-Sahely; The Rule of Barbarism: Pirogue Poets Seriestr. Naffis-Sahely; and In Praise of Defeat: Poems by Abdellatif Laabi, tr. Donald Nicholson-Smith.