The Moroccan-Francophone poet Abdellatif Al-Laabi (1942) won the French Grand Prize for Poetry “Roger Kowalski” in Lyon, France, for his poetic work “Almost Nothing” published in the publications of “Le Castor Astral”.
On this occasion, the conversation returned again about the position of this poet within contemporary Arab culture, at a time when Al-Laabi’s publications were numerous, between poetry, novel and criticism, and then composition at a later stage in his life.
Al-Laabi, who comes from Fez, is considered one of the most Moroccan poets who write in French, believing in the necessity to “modernize Moroccan literature steeped in self-glorification and traditionalism” with what this city represented at the time in terms of traditionalism and stability of the country’s notables in it, which was nothing but a past historical continuation, which negates every modern act with it. .
The New Left
On this basis, the ribat to which Al-Laabi moved to study at her university (Mohammed V) was a breathing space or a new birth for the poet who would find himself in front of a new life, whose features seem more aware of the technical, political and cultural developments that affected the city after independence.
Our congratulations to A. LAABI Laureate of the Roger-Kowalski Grand Prize for poetry. The prize went to his collection of poetry “Presque riens”. This set of poems which concentrates the essential moments of a life is a kind of testamentary book filled with wisdom and optimism. pic.twitter.com/cr3IkFpc9Y
– Edition Le Manifeste (@EManifeste) February 13, 2021
Al-Laabi was not one of the Moroccans who were fascinated by European modernity, so it took them to the point where they forgot their language, culture and society, and became enemies of the Arabic language and its great history, and to the extent that most of the poets were keen on their culture and patriotism through actual and permanent involvement in the reality of this culture, especially since most of his writings were translated into Arabic, but more than this, he worked on the transfer of many Arabic poetic experiences into the language of Moliere, without any sensitivity to the book The Language of Dhad.
His first affiliation to the new left inside Morocco was the most important path in Al-Labi’s life that will lead him to initiate a cultural and progressive project in the company of a group of Moroccan writers who still believed in a better Morocco, from those who inherited it from colonialism, where tradition is what he called the stage in his name, and not even in culture Inherited from this colonialism.
Fumen Al-Laabi, a student in the French Literature Department at the University of Mohammed V, pointed to the need to rid Moroccan culture of the impurities of tradition and oppression that the individual was experiencing at that time.
On this basis, Al-Laabi noted that literature would be the only entry point to understanding the political, social and cultural shocks that affected Morocco, so he and his companions devoted a bitterness to the experience of “Anfas” magazine, which will constitute a milestone in the history of Moroccan culture and one of the most important tributaries from which this culture has been nourished. At the expense of other traditional magazines that were popular during that period.
The publication of “Anfas” (1966-1972) ushered in a new era within the cultural Maghreb, in which all the bonds of tradition were cut off, and the word became the progressives, the dreamers, the distressed and the defeated who joined the numbers of the magazine in order to crystallize an authentic Moroccan culture that is more modern. As a guest, she travels in his languages and culture, but without occupying herself with a residence in it.
Although the magazine was published in French, this did not prevent the Moroccan intellectual from contributing to its spread, due to the great controversy that it was raising within the political and cultural circles, due to the cultural investigations it contained, artistic files and intellectual articles, especially since it was more proactive than any other magazine in Presenting real issues about the essence of Moroccan literature steeped in intimacy and utopia, and its launch coincided with the beginnings of the penetration of the new left in Morocco.
Although Al-Laabi repeatedly tried to direct the culture towards its anthropological space, the trends in Morocco quickly turned the compass of literature towards politics, due to the chronic arrests that the period witnessed in the ranks of Moroccan writers, which led poetry at the beginning of the seventies to the frenzied bare language of change and to the screaming in the face of authority. And its tyranny in the right of some individuals, poetry seemed to be in need of what would later become the true basis of poetry, which is the concern for its aesthetics, its discourse and its formation on an aesthetic basis that denies any prior action or will to express the wound of reality and its cracks.
Despite the statement – which was described as lean – that accompanied the announcement of the French award by the organizers about what was generally called “commitment” that characterized the life of the poet, critics believed that this seemed “misleading” and less knowledge of Al-Laabi’s work, its historical context, and its aesthetic changes that accompanied the course of his poetic consciousness since His arrest.
Critics believe that the concept of “commitment” to which the committee glorified is an external evaluation of the poetic work, and has no epistemological basis for it. It is better for the work to be evaluated on the basis of the levels of work on the poetic text, and the technical and aesthetic suggestions it offers, and not based on the justification of Al-La’bi’s poetry on the basis of commitment and belonging.
However, poetry becomes an inner sensory energy, which exceeds the factor of commitment or even interest in language at the expense of the essence of the poetry and its image. “The first function of poetry is to awaken and liberate that creator within every human being,” Al-Labi said in an interview with Al-Hurriya magazine in 1982.
He continues, “But poetry is also a heartbreaking affection for the splendor of life and our human experience, a fascination with our planet and its natural and human revolutions as it sends towards the universe the commandments of mankind, a love for what is to come, for the heritage of the future, the utmost goodness when I was tougher at the hands of the earthly tormentors, the just toilers, the utmost malice when I raise the finger of accusation in The face of the crusaders of plunder, the tormentors of the sources of sweetness and tenderness, the organizers of ugliness and poverty, poetry myself and my heartbeat when I smash the shield of my narrow body to stand with all my vital momentum in the face of boundaries and absurdity, poetry is a tool for exploring the depths, blowing the silence, monitoring the roots, planting rebellious seeds, the meeting of giving and the human cry Quality”.
Prison and restless questions
The prison formed the true laboratory for the poetic act of Al-Labi, which became like a spark that exploded from the inside of the self and its paths to be like an orphan light in the darkness or a light that illuminates the way for the afflicted and the dreamers of a better Morocco.
Poetic writing works compulsively to resist emptiness, pain and torment inside prison, so the body in this case does not have the defensive means to confront the various forms of power and its tyranny against the poet’s body, which has nothing but language, which is his only means of revolting against the oppressive and symbolic fences that limit his freedom. Inside the prison.
For the playful poetry is not an artistic luxury or an imaginary haven, as much as it is an ontological act and a means of dreaming, screaming and expressing, it is a sign of resistance to authority and all forms of oppression and the breaking of its barriers through language. Al-Labi says in the poem “Two Hours on the Train”:
In two hours by train
Browse my life movie
An average of two minutes per year
Children’s half hour
ولسخرى للسجن ،
Love, books, and hanging around
She shares the rest
My friend’s hand
Little by little melts in my hand
Her head is on my shoulder
at our arrival
I will turn 50
It will keep me from life
Almost an hour
But the interesting thing about Al-Labi’s experience is that this wound did not remain confined to the poetic text, as it penetrated more into the structure of the fictional work, where the language is more open and the imagination is also not restricted by structure and form, but it does not represent only a deep extension of the poetic experience, but more attention to the forgotten small details. Which the poem may neglect, but inside the novel “The Eye and the Night”, she attends with great interest these minutes of our tragic existence. The critic Mohamed Barada says about her, “she was distinguished by her poetic self and her textual violence that carried the atmosphere of rebellion and rejection in the Maghreb of the 1970s.”
His narrative experience does not operate independently of poetry, as he appreciates it and expands its dreamy horizon to search for the astonishing and strange in our human meeting within interrupted paths from the poet’s biography in its relationship to the prison space. But the poetic language here remains the organizing thread or the hidden light that welds the act of writing between poetry and the novel, and together the play leads them to break families with all the symbolic, psychological, political, social and cultural connotations, in comparison with the novel “Kaa Al Khabiya” which disrupts the ideological soul at the expense of a narrative. Fiction work through the methods of the subject of autobiography and the hidden research of the poet’s life.
Barada says about it in the same context, “Al-Laabi turns to the autobiography, inspired by his childhood in Fez from his birth in 1942 to the advent of independence in 1956, but it is a biography that is intertwined in the narrative form and is a marriage between the flow of memory and the cleverness of consciousness, spaces, rituals and human models, from the mill of time and the curtains of oblivion.” .