DARK PASSAGE

“LETTER TO MY FRIENDS OVERSEAS” BY ABDELLATIF LAÂBI

Smuggled stanza by stanza out of the prison cell where Abdellatif Laâbi was serving a ten-year sentence for distributing political pamphlets, this text reconciles the Moroccan poet to a world without shades of meaning, where contrasts are stark and distinctions come hard and fast.  Laâbi’s émigré friends and the foreigners who advocated for him during his imprisonment are one and the same—as contrasted with those who stayed at home.  The poet has chosen to “sing / out of love for this haunted land” rather than take part in the academic “face-saving exercise” within a “gilded cage” of “intellectuals-for-hire.”  The poem possesses the formal features of a sort of deconstructed chanson, and translator André Naffis-Sahely has created an English tone to bring a foreign tradition into anglophone literature.

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