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Crossing Boundaries: Morocco's Many Voices

March 2016

“Untitled,” by Hicham Benohoud
Image: Hicham Benohoud, Untitled, Oil on Canvas, 2013 Courtesy of the artist and Galerie D’Art L’Atelier 21
Image: Hicham Benohoud, Untitled, Oil on Canvas, 2013 Courtesy of the artist and Galerie D’Art L’Atelier 21

This month, Words without Borders features writing from Morocco. The work in these pages—translated from French, classical and Moroccan Arabic, and Tamazight—explores questions of privilege, sexism, repression, and the tension between tradition and modernity to reveal the richness of this underrepresented literary culture. Fouad Laroui’s diplomat loses his pants but keeps his wits. Poets Siham Bouhlal and Ahmed Bouanani meditate on love, loss, and the past. Mohamed Leftah pens an anguished account of a suicide, and Abdallah Zrika finds his text has a life of its own. In revealing portraits of relationships between the sexes, Khadija Arouhal decries the restricted roles of women, while Malika Moustadraf’s young pauper seethes with resentment and lust. Mourad Kadiri imagines a backstory for the habitués of a popular café. In their first English publications, Mohamed El Khadiri depicts a sexual transaction turned confession, and Soukaina Habiballah dissects a rose. We thank our guest editor, Emma Ramadan, who contributes three translations and an illuminating introduction.

Crossing Boundaries: Ten Moroccan Writers
By Emma Ramadan
These authors are doing important things in post-independence Moroccan writing, a period fueled with a new energy, vitality, and honesty.
The Curious Case of Dassoukine’s Trousers
By Fouad Laroui
So, nichts pairs of pants and Europe awaits me at nine o’clock sharp.
Translated from French by Emma Ramadan
From “Photograms”
By Ahmed Bouanani
I will paint my death on a canvas of autumn
Translated from French by Emma Ramadan
A Red Lighter in the Heart of M.
By Mohammed El Khadiri
You tell her things she isn’t supposed to hear.
Translated from Arabic by Chris Clarke
From “The Dove-Text”
By Abdallah Zrika
But the world that had disappeared around me has returned.
Translated from French by Pierre Joris
Anatomy of the Rose
By Soukaina Habiballah
The blooming petals: a navel.
Translated from Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid
Infinite Fall
By Mohamed Leftah
Her best years were burnt to ash by a searing fidelity to the memory of her dead husband.
Translated from French by Eleni Sikelianos
From “Dreams of a Berber Night, or The Tomb of Thorns”
By Siham Bouhlal
I would like to hide in your kiss.
Translated from French by Emma Ramadan
The Red Triangle Café
By Mourad Kadiri
One folded like a switchblade, one open like a book
Translated from Arabic by Kristin Hickman
By Malika Moustadraf
His dreams were full of his future invasions of all those blonde women’s beds.
Translated from Arabic by Alice Guthrie
They Told You
By Khadija Arouhal
They told you / That your feet should be nailed to the household!
Translated from French by Olivia Baes