‘In Praise of Defeat’ by Abdellatif Laâbi

In-praise-of-defeatEmily Wolahan at The Quarterly Conversation:

What I most appreciate about In Praise of Defeat, however, is that it coveys the length and breadth of Laâbi’s career as an artist. His early work is very powerful, but since 1985 he has been in exile in Paris (though he has recently been able to return occasionally to Morocco). Because Laâbi’s political activism and imprisonment came at the beginning of his career, most of Laâbi’s poems are written in the thirty years since his release. As with anyone who suffers something as horrific as imprisonment and torture, it’s not something Laâbi can leave behind. And the experience permanently places him in the in-between. In “Suns Under Arrest,” dedicated to Nelson Mandela and Abraham Serfaty, he writes:

The prison that our man inhabits
is round and square
near and far away
it is of yesterday and tomorrow
subterranean and lost in the clouds
carnivorous and vegetarian
it is a hutch near a mosque in a shantytown

By evoking the in-between, the prison our man inhabits also becomes any place where we are caught in stasis.

Laâbi is the man in prison who survived and therefore he has the opportunity to continue to develop as an artist. This is evident in the wonderful “Fragments of Forgotten Genesis” from 1998. Laâbi adopts the form of fragments, in between sentence and utterance, and shifts between witness, memory and reflection.

more here.