Thursday, April 05, 2007  

Adieu Chraibi

"Depuis 1954, j'ai attendu qu’un écrivain prenne la relève. On a peut-être imité, mais on n'a pas fait un autre Passé simple. Il y avait plusieurs révoltes dans ce livre : celle contre l’autorité paternelle, mais surtout celle contre le langage. Avant, quand on écrivait sur nous autres Indiens du Maghreb, c’était un langage loukoum, Jean-Pierre Loti, les frères Tharaud, François Bonjean, etc. Moi, j’ai employé un autre langage que celui d’un orientaliste. Ce livre, c’est une révolte de l’individu qui se reconstitue tout seul, d’une façon peut être hybride, mais qui dit d’emblée que ce n’est pas l’Occident qui est source de tous nos maux, mais c’est aussi nous-mêmes. Il faut balayer devant notre porte et commencer par là."
("Since 1954, I have been waiting for someone to pick up the baton. The Passe Simple (his book) has been imitated, but no one has written another one like it. There were a number of rebellions in this book: against the authority of the father figure (paternalistic authority), but above all, against the language. Before,when writing about we other "Indians" of the Mahgreb, it was in a loukoum-like tone, Jean-Pierre Loti, the Theraud brotehrs, Francois Bonjean, etc. Me, I used a language other than that of Orientalism. This book, this is a revolt of the individual who reconstructs himself on his own, perhps in a hyrbid way, but one which says right there and then that it is not the West which is the source of all our ills, but it is also ourselves. We have to put our own house in order and start there."
From an interview with Tel Quel

The great Moroccan writer, Driss Chraibi has died (heads up from Laila Lalami of Moorish Girl). Chraibi was an incredible writer who chose to write in French, as one of the emerging voices from Morocco after Independance. Chraibi's was an uncompromising voice- one that spoke in a compassionate tongue for immigrant rights, women's emancipation and the Berber (Imaghzen) identity. It was also harsh but bitingly humorous in its critique of the excesses in Islam, the Moroccan government and the French attitude towards their former colonials. As such, Chraibi is often consider the father of the modern Moroccan (francophone) novel.

Chraibi was one of the first Moroccan authors whose work I encountered while starting out as a translator. I had read Tahar Ben Jelloun while living in France and was turning more towards the Algerian writers of the first generation, as well as Si Mohand when I met with Three Continents Press to discuss possibly translating work for them. They kindly made me a present of several books, including some of Chraibi's most iconic works (Civilisation, ma mere! Le Boucs) and somewhere I have my copies of "e Passe Simple, L'Oum Er Bhia which I have treasured for years.

A Moroccan of Berber origin, Chriabi is, I think, one oe the first Moroccan writers to envision a Morocco that makes room for its Berber identity as well as looking back at a time when the Berbers first encounter the Arabs. In addition, his clear articulation of the alienation and complexity of the immigrant experience in France, written a muscular, yet tender style, stands as an eloquent documentation of an era in which students and laborers alike had to turn to France in an effort to fulfill some of the promises of an independence that was threatening to sour. His later works, including the Inspecteur Ali series, were just as strongly written, making Moroccan Francophone literature (as well as with Tahar Ben Jelloun, Rachid Mimouni, etc) into a force to be reckoned with.

For more on Chraibi.

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