Traveling through books can be as much or even more enriching than walking its streets; and new generations of authors have put Morocco on a new literary map that today is essential to know the country. In general, they have already set foot in other worlds, emigration, exile or simply the escape from the oppression that they still breathe at home by challenging the standardized way of life. But his country remains his literary material. His world. Like the canary in the mine or the tsunami early warning, they have been painting for a long time the universe of enormous inequality that has just become evident again with the earthquake that has hit the land of the Atlas. Seeing the adobe houses crushed by earthworks, seeing the defenseless population fighting misfortunes alone as if they were divine designs, help arriving on donkeys and King Mohamed VI visiting some victims chosen for the occasion days later are images that These days they take us to scenes that we have already read. Because they are written.
The bookstore was already populated by established names that paved the way, from a classic like Tahar Ben Jelloun, born in Fez in 1947, winner of the 1987 Goncourt Prize, who has portrayed the social cracks and the leaden years of Hassan II, to Mohamet Chukri ( 1935-2003), who embodied in his own identity as an illiterate street child, the essence of someone who has survived the daily violence and misery of the country.
But other topographers of this map under construction that is contemporary Moroccan literature have joined them. In the line of Chukri, from the most lost corners of the streets and the guts of the poorest Morocco arise, for example, the life and pen of Abdelá Taia (Salé, 1973), who has turned his books into a stroke of conscience about the violence, helplessness, inequality and lgtbiphobia that a society experiences without any protection in sight. He himself has suffered loneliness and rape in a childhood with ten siblings, from which he fled to settle in Paris. And his literature, like him, has taken the somersault of narrating that decomposition along with the racism and exclusion that also awaited him in Europe. With The Slow Life, Infieles, My Morocco or He Who Is Worthy of Being Loved (Cabaret Voltaire) he has put his place on that map.
One of the most pioneering and disruptive of this group has been Mahi Binebine (Marrakech, 1959), an artist whose work is recognized in Western markets (it is exhibited at the Guggenheim in New York) and who has not only taken up the pen to portray several generations of Moroccans, but has also become an activist against inequality. Binebine was so battered by the attacks in Casablanca in 2003 that he returned to his country to get to work. Given that the crimes had been committed by ragged boys with no opportunities, he has created several cultural centers to accommodate hundreds of them and wrote The Horses of God (Alfaguara), which was adapted to film in 2012. Binebine knew how to portray that generation of kids from the suburbs, streets without asphalt, soccer fields in the landfill and bathrooms in smelly wastewater. Inequality in the Morocco of the 21st century was exposed by his hand to focus on the failure of a State where the GDP grows at the rate of the wealth of its sovereign, Mohamed VI, while the population has had hardly any official help to face the earthquake.
Just as the lives of Chukri or Taia exude the street they have trodden and suffered, Binebine has embodied in his own family history the most pressing reality of Morocco in all its stages: his father was a jester for King Hassan II, which has given him given a knowledge of the regime from within; and his brother spent years in the darkest dungeons of the regime due to the coup attempt that sought to overthrow him in 1971. He narrated it in Yo, buffoon of the king (also Alfaguara), where he unfolds his eloquence between a satyr like his father, capable of thanking the sovereign and telling him stories to help him fall asleep in his moments of greatest cruelty, and his brother, who was literally dwarfed in the secret prison of Tazmamart to the point that, when he came out, 18 years later, he was such a wreck that The family could not recognize him. She had shrunk 50 centimeters.
The biggest star of the moment has also approached this same reality, from very different angles: Leila Slimani, born in Rabat in 1981, who has been moving away from more Parisian initial books to delve into the portrait of her country of origin. . The country of others and Watch us dance, the first two installments of a trilogy still pending completion and published by Cabaret Voltaire, make up a true manual of Moroccan life since the 1940s that goes through rigorism, the fight for independence, brutal inequality and, once again, citizen helplessness in the face of a prevailing status quo from which it is better to protect oneself. Slimani went to Paris to go to university and has lived in France until she recently settled in Lisbon, so her books also embrace this double uprooting of the Maghreb in Europe and of the European in her region. Winner of the 2016 Goncourt Prize with Sweet Song, she has lived up to a historical ambition that encompasses the years of independence, the hardening of the Hassan II regime and the creation of a frivolous and rich class that has no eyes for poverty of his country. In that humus that she has already consolidated, she is finishing off that third book of her trilogy that will take us to the present and in which all the elements of the Moroccan dislocation that we contemplate are already planted.
They are joined by other Moroccan voices already raised abroad since their early years, such as Najat el Hachmi (Nador, 1979, settled in Catalonia since the age of eight) or Mohamet el Morabet (Al Hoceima, 1983, arrived in Spain as a teenager), that delve into their origins to offer us in Spanish a literature that is also essentially Moroccan. El Hachmi, winner of the 2021 Nadal Prize with Monday they will love us (Destino), above all, provides the view of an oppressive and patriarchal society in which women – girls – suffer, in addition to all the problems already mentioned, the sexism of a classic world without windows To thrive. Even though they have moved to Europe. Inequality, in its flesh, is also gender.
Together they make up that cartography of the real Morocco that has once again become evident.
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