Driss Chraïbi Turns 80

Last Saturday marked the eightieth birthday of novelist Driss Chraïbi, one of the most prominent and talented figures of Moroccan literature. Born on July 15, 1926, in El Jadida, Chraïbi is the author of such classics as Le Passé Simple (‘The Simple Past’), Succession Ouverte (‘Heirs to the Past’), La Civilisation, Ma Mère (‘Mother Comes of Age’), and of course the Inspector Ali series.

Because of the dearth of children’s literature by and for Moroccans, most of the stuff I read when I was very little was, for the most part, in–and about–the French. I read and re-read Astérix et Obelix, Tintin, Boule et Bill, Lucky Luke, anything in the Bibliothèque Rose, the Bibliothèque Verte, the entire works of de Ségur, etc. So it wasn’t until I was about twelve or thirteen, when I had begun to read adult literature, that I came across novels by Moroccans, about Moroccan characters, dealing with their lives, their loves, their dilemmas, and so on. For me, that’s what Chraïbi represents: The man who made it possible to see my own culture, in words. I haven’t read him in years, and I am afraid to revisit some of his books, lest the memory turn out to be much better than the reality. And I want to cherish the memory.