In Praise of Defeat: Poems by Abdellatif Laâbi
Author: Abdellatif Laâbi
Translator: Donald Nicholson-Smith
Publisher: Archipelago Books (2017)
One of the central writers and thinkers in contemporary Maghreb letters and banned by the Moroccan government, Abdellatif Laâbi's poetry is increasingly influential on the international scene and spans six decades of political and literary change, innovation, and struggle. Including a wide range of work, from piercing domestic love poetry to a fierce lyricism of social resistance informed by nearly a decade spent in prison for "crimes of opinion," all of Laâbi's poetry is situated firmly against tyranny and for life––an almost mythic sense of spiritual and earthly joy emanates from this resistance through the darkness of political oppression. This selection of poetry has been masterfully rendered into English for the first time by Donald Nicholson-Smith and introduced by the eminent poet and critic Pierre Joris––the first in translation to be chosen by Laâbi himself.
"There is unfathomable beauty and unspeakable sorrow laced throughout this 800-page bilingual opus of poems by Moroccan writer Abdellatif Laâbi, which speaks to his feeling of exile from his own language and his displacement within his own country, mired in the mess of colonialism. Donald Nicholson-Smith skillfully carves out a space for English to accommodate Laâbi’s vigorous and vital voice."
–Emma Ramadan, The Center for the Art of Translation