Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Moroccan Author Speaks Out in Fez

Renowned author Leila Abouzeid will be speaking next Wednesday at the American Language Center. 

Ms Abouzeid is the first Moroccan woman writer to have her work translated from Arabic to English. Her ground-breaking first novel, Year of the Elephant, explored the conflict between traditional and contemporary cultures, from the point of view of a female character.

Next Wednesday, she will be speaking about her most recent work, Life of the Prophet a Biography of Prophet Mahammad, which was published this year, as well as her previous work.

The fact that Leila Abouzeid writes in Arabic rather than French is significant. She is actually trilingual, but has chosen to write in Arabic, she states, "for political as well as personal reasons."

Year of the Elephant is dedicated to, "all those women and men who put their lives in danger for the sake of Morocco and did not expect to be rewarded or thanked for it."

She gives the Moroccan struggle depth in Islamic history by comparing it to an important battle in early Islam, when foreign tribes riding elephants marched on the sanctuary at Mecca.

Abouzeid was born in 1950 into a middle-class family in El Ksiba, a Middle Atlas village where her father was an interpreter in the French administration. She was six years old when Morocco gained its freedom from France in 1956, a process of resistance in which her own father was involved. After studying at the Mohamed V University in Rabat and The University of Texas, Austin, Ms Abouzeid began her career as a radio and TV journalist, and also worked as press assistant in government ministries and in the prime minister's office. She left the press in 1992 to dedicate herself to writing fiction.

In Return to Childhood (1999), she charts her deeply personal journey through family conflicts ignited by the country's civil unrest during Morocco 's struggle for independence from French colonial rule.

Abouzeid's book, The Last Chapter (2003), is a thought-provoking, semi-autobiographical story about a young Moroccan woman and her struggle to find an identity in the Morocco of the second half of the twentieth century. Shifting male/female relationships feature strongly in the narrative, as do clashes of modern and traditional Moroccan society, Islamic and Western values, as well as the older practices of sorcery and witchcraft. “With an author as talented as Abouzeid and the heroine an intellectual with the tongue of a Moroccan Dorothy Parker, there is a lot of substance to the novel”, wrote the Cairo Times.

The Director and Other Stories from Morocco (2006), deals with issues between parents and children, between husbands and wives, and between citizens of newly independent Morocco and its new nationalist representative government.

For anyone interested in contemporary Moroccan literature, this is a talk not to miss.

When: Wednesday April 18 at 5pm
Where: American Language Center, Room 1
Cost: Free


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