Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Abellatif Laâbi

I was very pleased to hear that Laâbi has been honoured by the Goncourt Academy. The Moroccan poet was awarded this literary honor for "his life achievements," the Academy said in a statement. The prize will be officially given on January 12, 2010.

Leafe Press, of course, has just published a new translation of Laâbi 's poem 'Fragments of a Forgotten Genesis' in a dual-language edition, and it's available now (see below for special offer). Laâbi is a heroic figure, who has spent his life fighting oppression of all kinds (he was a strong supporter of Salman Rushdie during the 'Satanic Verses' affair).
He was born in 1942 in Fes, Morocco. In 1966 he founded Anfas/Souffles, an important literary review, which provided a focus for Moroccan and Maghreb creative energies. It was banned in 1972. Laâbi was imprisoned, tortured and sentenced to ten years in prison for "crimes of opinion" (for his political beliefs and his writings) and served a sentence from 1972-1980. He was then forced into exile in France, where he has lived since 1985.

Laâbi has published a huge volume of work, particularly poetry, but although there is a Selected Poems ('The World's Embrace') from City Lights, San Franciscio, he is under-represented in English. So Leafe was particularly pleased, in fact honoured, to publish his long poem 'Fragments d’une genèse oubliée / Fragments of a Forgotten Genesis'. It was originally published in 1998 by Editions Paroles d’Aube, but was out-of-print in both English and French when Leafe Press took it on. The poem is a surrealistic refiguring of Genesis presented in twenty-six “fragments.” As a whole, the work is a mystical yet cynical re-visioning of both the Old Testament and the Koran. The translation, by Gordon and Nancy Hadfield is uncluttered and clear, and works as a fine English poem in its own right.

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