Youssouf Amine Elalamy
Translated by John Liechty
120 pages: $16.95
This is a story written entirely with water.
It should be read the way one drinks tea, sip by sip, to get the full flavor and avoid burning one’s tongue. It opens with some men who spend their lives leaving their home and ends with a woman who attends her own birth. A young woman of great beauty, with a fragrant name and long silken hair. In this story, there’s also an old man who never dies, not even towards the end when words are growing scarce. The very first time, we see him sitting under a tree that constantly changes color and never bears the same fruit twice.
Elalamy’s tale has the spare incantation of myth along with violent modern poetic image— we’re there with him in the desert. And Liechty’s translation deftly captures the sinuous rhythms of the original French.
Youssouf Amine Elalamy’s Nomad Love is a haunting novel reminiscent of the classic narratives of Middle Eastern and Near Eastern story-telling, from the seminal A Thousand and One Nights to the mystical quests, magical dreams, and elusive word games of Tahar Ben Jelloun (e.g., La Prière de l’absent and L’Ecrivain public), Abdelkébir Khatibi’s obsession with bilingualism and creative palimpsests, and the increasingly important corpus of writing by contemporary Moroccan women poets. Elalamy’s oneiric fable is a prose poem about love and mortality that leaves the reader dazzled and intrigued. Thanks to John Liechty’s excellent translation, Elalamy’s tale will now inform and delight English-language readers and broaden international awareness of the continuing multilingual richness of Moroccan literature today.