My Mother’s Language by Abdellatif Laâbi

Featuring: Abdellatif Laâbi, André Naffis-Sahely

The prize-winning Moroccan poet, Abdellatif Laâbi, is widely acknowledged as being one of the most important poets writing today. Laâbi was born in Fez in 1942. He began writing in the mid-1960s, publishing his first novel in 1969. In 1966 he founded the renowned literary magazine Souffles, a journal of literature and politics that was to earn its editor an eight-year prison sentence (from 1972 to 1981) under the authoritarian reign of Hassan II. Once released from jail, Laâbi left Morocco in 1985 and has lived in Paris ever since.

In France, Laâbi became a member of the Académie Mallarmé in 1988. A prolific novelist, poet and playwright, he is also the French translator of the Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, the Moroccan poet Abdallah Zrika, the Iraqi poet Abdelawahab Al Bayati and the Syrian novelist Hanna Minna. He has edited numerous anthologies, most notably one of twentieth-century Moroccan poetry.

Abdellatif Laâbi received the Prix Goncourt de la Poésie in 2009 and the Académie française's Grand prix de la Francophonie in 2011. A translation of his 2004 memoir, The Bottom of the Jar, will be published by Archipelago Books in October 2012, in a translation by André Naffis-Sahely.