Two separate poetry collections from Moroccan filmmaker and writer Bouanani, who documents postcolonial transition in personal, highly interior language. Scenes of historical trauma mingle mythology in the symbolist 'Photograms,' which feel somehow both ecstatic and fatigued. The title poem of 'The Shutters' is a vivid elegy to childhood, “a house as big as a dream you don’t wake up from.” Otherwise turn to page 47 and read 'To the Poet Prisoners'; a striking elegy, would it were less timely today.— Cam
This surreal poetry maps Morocco’s cultural history, as Bouanani hauntingly evokes all of the violence inflicted on his country
The Shutters collects the two most important poetry collections—"The Shutters" and "Photograms"—by the legendary Moroccan writer Ahmed Bouanani. By intertwining myth and tradition with the familiar objects and smells of his lived present, Bouanani reconstructs vivid images of Morocco's past. He weaves together references to the Second World War, the Spanish and French protectorates, the Rif War, dead soldiers, prisoners, and poets screaming in their tombs with mouths full of dirt. His poetry, written in an imposed language with a "strange alphabet," bravely confronts the violence of his country's history—particularly during the period of les années de plomb, the years of lead—all of which bears the brutal imprint of colonization. As Bouanani writes, "These memories retrace the seasons of a country that was quickly forgetful of its past, indifferent to its present, constantly turning its back on the future."
About the Author
The filmmaker and writer Ahmed Bouanani (1938–2011) was born in Casablanca. When Bouanani was sixteen, during the final days of the colonial era, his father, a police officer, was assassinated—a tragedy that the artist returned to in his work for the rest of his life. Bouanani studied film at the Institut des hautes études cinématographiques (IDHEC) in Paris for three years before returning to Morocco and going on to direct several classics of North African cinema. Most of his movies had their genesis in poems, and he published three collections during his lifetime, as well as the novel The Hospital, also appearing in English for the first time with New Directions. Never keen to publish, Bouanani left behind a trove of additional manuscripts.
Emma Ramadan, a literary translator based in Providence, Rhode Island, has received a PEN/Heim grant, an NEA translation fellowship, and a Fulbright scholarship in Morocco, all for her work on Ahmed Bouanani's poetry.
"An atmosphere of mystery surrounds his work: Bouanani offers a precious contribution to Morocco's collective memory."
A melancholy, hallucinatory, biting meditation.
Bouanani’s work mocks authoritarianism and fanaticism, despairs of Morocco’s democratic failure, and struggles to hold on to the cultural and historical inheritance its government is bent on erasing... A scathing, fearsome, and hallucinatory collection.
"After the collective trauma of the colonial occupation of Morocco, a vanguard of artists forged cultural practices that sought to establish a new vision of the country, appealing to its ancient traditions passed down through oral culture. Filmmaker, poet, and writer Ahmed Bouanani was a towering presence in this landscape, pioneering a cinematic and poetic language that influenced a generation to come."