By Toni Maraini
The first issue was thin, but it responded “to an imperative demand”. Soon it reached 100 pages. Khaïr-Eddine had by then migrated to France and his name does not figure in the comité d’action, but his presence was assured by his poems. Haunted and solitary, Khaïr-Eddine (whose mother tongue was Berber) had fuelled new Moroccan poetry (and literature) with the concepts of the “linguistic guerrillas”. To finish with the garden verses and the classical elegies, someone had to dare to break the rules of literary French. He did so, and opened the way to language experimentation. Widely debated by Maghrebi writers in French through Souffles, the topic reached the young generation of Moroccan writers both in French and in Arabic. At the core of the debate was the question, in which language would the new independent Moroccan writers write? The answer given by Abdellatif Laâbi in the first issue of Souffles is still valuable today: “The language of a poet,” he wrote, “is above all ‘his own language’, the one that he creates.” By encouraging translations and collaborations, Souffles had the great merit not to divide literary production into Francophone and Arabophone, as creation and culture in both languages were considered (and are) a complementary historical reality rooted in a common ground.
This article features in a special, Arabic-only edition of the Chronic, published in June 2015 as “Muzmin”. The issue, which examines the division of “North” and “sub-Saharan” Africa and Ali Mazrui’s concept of “Afrabia”, was designed in collaboration with Studio Safar (Beirut) and presented at the 12th edition of Sharjah Biennial.Buy the Chronic
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