الكيان والمكان / Being and Place


Muhamed Choukri



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شكرﻱ, محمد; Choukri, Muhamed

Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

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[The Moroccan writer Mohamed Choukri was born in the Rif in 1935 and moved to Tangier in 1943 to flee from famine. There he led the life of a vagabond, earning his living by shining shoes, selling newspapers and vegetables, washing dishes in cafes and restaurants, pickpocketing, guiding tourists and singing. At nineteen he decided to learn how to read and write. Then he started experimenting with writing. In 1966, the Lebanese literary monthly Al-Adab published a short story by Choukri which attracted attention to him. His best known work is Al-Khubz al-Hafi, a painfully honest autobiography in which he presents childhood and adolescence within a Third World lumpenproletariat. The work, with its candid presentation of violence and sexuality, was considered too subversive and revolutionary for publication. It was not published in Arabic until Choukri had become an internationally known author. An English adaptation was published in 1973 entitled For Bread Alone, by the American novelist Paul Bowles; and a French translation by the Moroccan writer and poet Tahar Ben Jelloun entitled Le pain nu was published in 1980. The work was adapted for the stage and was performed at the "Lucernaire," a Paris theater, in 1983. Alif interviewed Mohamed Choukri in writing in 1985. The entire text of the exchange is published in Arabic. The following are translated excerpts from it. • In Al-Khubz al-Hāf̄i (For Bread Alone) I present immoral scenes in order to look for morality and ideals. The characters of my autobiography are not content with their immoral condition since they do not rejoice in being corrupt; they become corrupt through horrible social oppression. Their life is turned into a commodity and that is why they lose their humane values. • When I first met Jean Genet in Tangier in 1968, I had not read any complete text by him, only some articles on him in Arabic and Spanish periodicals (his works were banned during Franco's period). I introduced myself to him as a Moroccan writer, though I had only published two short stories in Al-Adāb in Beirut. We became friends instantly... As for Tennessee Williams, he was introduced to me by Paul Bowles... Tennessee was careful not to establish any relations with Moroccans. In fact my relationship with him, unlike that with Genet, was distant. Tennessee was temperamental in his relations, as I observed. As for their creativity, I view both of them as giants, though neither of them recognizes the other, especially Genet who told me that what Tennessee wrote did not interest him at all. • Classical Arabic literature is one of the most liberal literatures in the world despite the repression that was exercised on it at certain periods. It has had its martyrs too, such as Ṭarfa ibn al-'Abd, Imrū' al-Qays, al-Ḥallāj, Abū Hiyyān al-Tawḥīdī, Bashshār, Ibn al-Muqaffa', Ibn al-Rūmī, al-Mutanabbī who were persecuted and killed by tyrants and thieves. • Writing for me is a struggle between the real and the fantasmic. Through what we experience and what we imagine, the writing-vision is realized. When I write about Tangier, I am objecting to everything that deforms her beautiful traits, to that which rapes her, conquers her and assassinates her. Brian Gysin, who lived the most beautiful periods of his life in Tangier... said: "We belong to the place which we rape." This is the view of conquerers. Under the pressure of oppression and repression... I am obliged to dream of things which may never come true. I dream of a new Arcadia for Tangier, permeated by peaceful and honest living.]

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