Translated by Peter Thompson
Hope on the Fly (L’espoir à l’arraché)
ISBN: 978-1-956921-02-1 (pbk., 184)
Abdellatif Laâbi is Morocco’s best-known living poet and one of its most influential essayists and translators. Freed, now, after a term in political prison and living in Paris, at the age of 80 he is reflective, gently ironic, and flashing his provocative wit and his unflinching eye when today’s news merits comparison to the “years of lead,” which is unfortunately too often. Although he can now be counted as winner of the Prix Goncourt and the Grand Prix de La Francophonie, a poet who shares the stage with the best-selling novelists, this recognition has been an uncertain journey, interrupted by his imprisonment for a decade for his work on the journal Souffles. Laâbi’s fame, and his troubles, grew from the 1960s when he founded the infamous journal, published simultaneously in Arabic as Anfas. Laâbi was arrested for sedition in 1972, and there are numerous allusions to his imprisonment and torture in his work.
The present collection, somewhat more than the other Diálogos Books edition (Perishable Poems, 2019), is wistful, keenly evoking decades of both activism and retreat.
Along with this book (L’Espoir à l’arraché, 2018), art work and collaborations, Laâbi’s recent publications include Le Livre imprévu, (narrative, new edition 2017); Presque Riens (poetry, 2020); Ce que poète désire (anthology for the young, 2021); La Fuite vers Samarkand (narrative, 2021). The reader is also referred to the recent Diálogos release Liqueur of Aloe, a translation of the memoir by the poet’s wife, Jocelyne Laâbi.
It has now been forty-two years since Laâbi’s release from prison, but the passions of that memory and the disappointments of Arab Spring still shine a light both human and harsh on authoritarianism, and on the life that flowers again after the cruelest repression.