Biography and bibliography of Abdellatif Laabi

This article is also available in: Italiano

The biography and bibliography (in Italian) of one of the last great Moroccan intellectuals

Biography of Abdellatif Laabi

Abdellatif Laabi was born in 1942 in Fes, Morocco, then a French protectorate, to a family of modest origins. From an early age he read and was influenced by great writers such as Dostoevsky, Kateb Yacine, Frantz Fanon and Nâzım Hikmet. His adventure in the literary and social fields began between 1966 and 1967, a time in which he was a French professor in a high school in Rabat; in those years, in fact, he founded the magazine Souffles, for years a cultural point of reference for the Moroccan Left, and composed two particularly significant works: “Règne de barbarie” and “L’Œil et la Nuit”, his first novel, published in 1969.

Abdellatif Laabi
Abdellatif Laabi in 1967

These were particularly turbulent years for Morocco, with a climate so heavy that they were nicknamed “Years of Lead”; in addition to the turbulent situation in the Arab world, there are also very strong social tensions between King Hassan II and his people, which will lead the former to take very serious measures, so much so as to imprison a good part of his political opponents (or presumed such). Laabi, who in the meantime had founded the Marxist-Leninist party Ila al-Amam, was one of the first to pay the price, being arrested in 1972 and sentenced to 10 years in prison, serving 8 and a half.

Abdellatif Laabi
Abdellatif Laabi with Mohammed Choukri in 1984

Prison paradoxically turns out to be a continuous source of creativity, so much so that it was from prison that he won some of his first literary prizes such as the poetry prize of the Rotterdam Art Foundation and the freedom prize of the French PEN club. From 1980 to 1984 he was free but deprived of fundamental rights and so, when he regained them in 1985, he immediately decided to go into exile in Paris. In 1994 he returned to Morocco with the idea of creating a publishing house for children, but his dreams were wrecked within a few months and forced him to return to France. From this moment on Abdellatif Laabi will divide his time between his apartment in Créteil, near Paris, and Harhoura, near Rabat, where he constantly works on his literary production, so much so as to win very prestigious prizes such as the Prix Goncourt de la Poésie.

Bibliography (in Italian)

At the moment there are 4 works by Abdellatif Laabi translated into Italian:

“Di tutte le lotte”/”La poésie est invincible”, published by the publishing house AstArte (2023)

Di tutte le lotte is a poetic collection in which the importance of poetry as a means of analyzing reality and as an instrument of struggle is proclaimed. Abdellatif Laâbi, one of the most important figures of the Arabic and Francophone literary landscape, combines anecdotes and fragments of personal thoughts through a writing imbued with humanity, which reaffirms the need to fight to obtain justice, equality and freedom.

Di tutte le lotte

“Sul filo della speranza”, published by the publishing house AstArte (2020)

What is humanity’s task in the face of disaster? Making particular reference to the Syrian situation and migratory phenomena, in this collection the poet observes a wounded and suffering world, shows the reader the painful situation in which man finds himself and intends to continue to fight against injustice and barbarism, to continue to keep hope alive when all seems lost. On the edge of hope is a song of struggle and resistance, an invitation to defend our brothers of the only existing race: the human one.

Sul filo della speranza

“A ricomporre il colore dei suoi occhi. Poesie e altri testi scelti 1966-2014”, published by Kolibris (2015)

“The most beautiful poems / are written on stones” writes Alda Merini, “with wounded knees / and hands sharpened by mystery.” And Abdellatif Laâbi wrote his most beautiful poems in a prison cell in Morocco, where he was confined due to his ideas and his literary activity, where he suffered the most atrocious torture and ruthless humiliation. The most necessary and urgent poems, the most powerful ones Laâbi writes every time he returns to that cell, in the solitude and silence, in the pain and in the absence of answers that make his voice rise and echo with strength against injustice, against any kind of arrogance and oppression. The poet never closes his eyes in the face of evil, not even when he finds himself submerged and apparently overwhelmed and crushed by it. Because for Laâbi the poet is the one who has the task of taking on evil, his own and that of the world, of living it entirely, to the full, to give us back the semblance of meaning. The poet cannot in any way escape his task, the moral duty of looking the enemy in the face, of proving him false, stripping – with the sole force of words and the ardor of the cry – his executioners, brutalized and dehumanized to the point of ridiculousness, to the point of the grotesque.

Technically, “Ordalia. Morocco: viaggio alla conquista della libertà” was also published in Italian, but it is out of print and I couldn’t even find the plot; it was published in Italian in 1995 by the Selene publishing house and the first text by Laabi to have been translated into Italian.

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