Farewell Mohammed Choukri

I’ve just heard that Moroccan author Mohammed Choukri passed away this weekend at his home in Tangier. A contemporary and friend of Jean Genet, Tennessee Williams, Paul Bowles (with whom he later had a falling out), and others, Choukri is probably best known for his semi-autobiographical novel Al-Khubz Al-Hafi, which dealt with his adolescence during the famine of the 1940s and his experiences with drugs, homosexuality, and prostitution. The novel was translated into English by Bowles and into French by Tahar Ben Jelloun (himself an accomplished writer and Goncourt Prize winner.) The novel was intermittently banned in Morocco. In my hometown of Rabat, you could walk down to Kalila Wa Dimna and ask for the novel and sometimes they would carry the French version (never the Arabic one), and other times not, depending on how “subversive” the government judged it to be. Since 2001, however, I’m told that the book is widely available, in both the original Arabic and in translation. Choukri is also the author of Streetwise, as well as a non-fiction book on Jean Genet’s life in Tangier. His loss is unendurable.