Mohamed Choukri monopolized Tangier for himself … and those who wrote about it were tourists

Nearly two decades have passed since the death of the most famous Moroccan writer, Mohamed Choukri, and five decades have passed since he wrote The Bare Bread, the novelist’s biography in which Choukri revealed his secrets and also Tanger, his beloved city, whose name revealed. associated with it, and which became synonymous with its name.

Mohamed Choukri lived single all his life, and when asked about the marriage, he replied, “I married Tanga.” Whoever reads Shukri’s novels and stories, and reads his many dialogues with her, realizes the extent of the commitment and loyalty in this marriage. As for those who sat with him and shared the edges of joy and anguish with him, they necessarily know it better.

Shukri’s love for Tangier reached the point where he was jealous of everyone who wrote about it, even though he was among the elite of international writers who lived in this city or crossed it. For him, they wrote “postcards”, as he described them. He expresses it in sharp language in his book “Paul Bowles and the Solitude of Tangiers”, as he says: “How many people have spoken or written about Tanger only through their whims and pleasure, or their whims and relaxation, or they have tried to forget their misery there.So Tanga is for some of them a brothel or a beautiful beach or Comfortable dispensary.

Against the flat writing of Tangier

Shoukry has criticized those who lament the time of “Tanger International” with a kind of “loose nostalgia”, and they look at it with eyes that are not without colonialism. He also criticized those who claim in-depth knowledge of the secrets of the city, while their relationship with it was superficial, and their intersection would not have allowed them to write texts capable of immersing themselves in the interior of this legendary city. do not dig. Shoukry accuses these hurried writers of confusing and flattening their writing, in search of free, bubbling fame. He was surprised by those who came from distant lands and wrote in different languages ​​about the city without living Tanger’s nights and days and listening to them. the rhythm of his roads and walls, and to share the details of life with the poor of her family. He calls this class of writers “travel writers” because they often look at the city with an eye that is not very different from that of any tourist coming from another place and culture, laden with preconceived ideas of Arab fantasy, folklore and extensions of stereotypical traditional readings.

Choukri did not agree with Paul Bowles, who had lived in Tangier for a long time, and this difference is due to the nostalgic view of the owner of the “protective air” about Tangier’s past. The American writer, considered in his writings to be the most interested foreign writer in Tangier, “wants Morocco to remain as he knew it in the 1930s and 1940s,” and this idea seems to Shukri to be “purely colonial”. be. In one of his letters, Boles writes to his friend, Alec France, and tells him on his arrival in Tangier that he is the face of a city that looks like his imagination, and that anything can be done, and “everything can be obtained , as long as it can be paid for “. This is what the owner of “Bread Barefoot” saw as an insult to the city and a decline in its historical and cultural value.

Shoukry’s critique did not stop at Bowles’ writings on Tangier and his views on it, but also criticized what Juan Goytsolo, William Burroughs and Daniel Rondo wrote about the city, classifying their works within the category of tourist writing that did not penetrate . in the depths of Tangier. Shoukry was also dissatisfied with what John Higgins wrote, and regarded his narrative work “Flies of Tangiers” as “a novel of no literary value”. The owner of “Bread Barefoot” blamed foreign writers, who lived or visited in Tangier, for their lack of involvement in the popular life of the city, which would inevitably free their writings from the depth expected of those who have explored the details of life. in popular and dangerous neighborhoods, with faces belonging to the social margin. He once said of the American writer Truman Capote: “He refused to go to the old city, or the Casbah. He was scared.”

Heroes from the edge of city life

Mohamed Choukri came on foot from his village to Tangier, “by force, not by choice,” as he put it. He was a child in his sixth year, and the time was a time of famine and epidemics, so the city at that time was his salvation.

At that time, his father, the soldier who had fled from Franco’s army, was captured, and the mother was selling vegetables and fruits at the city’s markets, while Shukri was looking for food for the child in the containers of Christian foreigners living in Tangier because “the devourers of Muslim-Moroccans were poor,” as he described it.

Shukri lived a great and deep life in Tangier’s nights and days, and let’s say he tried everything, and lived everything, not based on any religious or social controls, free from all restrictions, and swung behind his individual madness and his view of life. , the appearance of a child brought out of the warmth of the family into the street Stripped of all social and human cover. Therefore, writing to him can be a reckoning of accounts with deprivation, therefore he started it from where the others end, as he chose to make his first literary work his personal biography, showing the conclusions of his intersection with life and his clash with his walls, and his permanent and renewed desire to win it.

Choukri wanted to write his individual history in Tangier, in spite of all “officially paid history”, as he described it. In Bread Barefoot as well as in The Time of Errors, Shukri places his life on paper, undifferentiated between the private and the public, and indifferent to those fractions that biographers usually place between what should be said and what should not be said. Every human experience deserves to be written and read in Shukri’s eyes.

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In Majnoun al-Ward, al-Khaymah and al-Suq al-Din he conveyed the life of the rand in Tangier to the reader in its most accurate detail.The heroes of his writings are the crushed, forgotten and excluded within . a society that overcomes only those with power, money, prestige or other social and economic shields.

Tangier is mine alone

Shukri had earlier admitted that if he had lived in a city other than Tangier, he would not have written what he wrote, and in one of his dialogues he says: “Tangier will remain my favorite city, although there are more beautiful cities than this. is. “This is his favorite city that he probably wished no one else would write about, because he may be the only writer who owns the secrets of it. Many world-renowned writers and artists lived in Tangier, some of whom spent many years in Tangier, and some of them crossed the road, some of them wrote about the city and some painted it: Paul Bowles, Jean Genet, Tennessee Williams, William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg, Barbara Hutton, Henri Matisse, Rembrandt, Delacroix, Borges , Robin Dario, Majorelle, Gary Cooper, Marlene Dietrich, Mark Twain, Edith Harton and others.

But Shukri regretted that Tanger did not find foreign writers who could write about it, as Faulkner and Marques wrote about the place. Perhaps those who celebrated Tangiers in their narratives were the oral narrators who sold their stories to foreign writers. The most prominent of these narrators are: Muhammad Lamrabet, Ahmad Al-Yaqoubi, Al-Arabi Al-Ayachi and Abd Al-Salam Boulaish.

As for the Arab writers who came to Tangier from the East, they left little trace, according to Shukri. Therefore, the name Tangier will not be associated with any other literary name except for Mohamed Choukri, as it is his city and he is the author of it. That’s why he always said, “Every writer has his own city. Casablanca for Mohamed Zefzaf, and Tangier is mine alone.”

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