One and Three Texts: Writing and Re-writing the Politics of Al-Khubz al-Hafi in Translation
Bi-College (Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges). Comparative Literature Program
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In 1973, a British publisher asked American novelist Paul Bowles, then in Tangier, to ask Moroccan Amazigh writer Mohamed Choukri for an autobiography. Bowles had some experience translating oral narratives, but since he was unable to read Arabic, Choukri’s text was unintelligible to him. The two men translated through Spanish, French, and colloquial Arabic, while their disagreements led to them sitting on opposite sides of the same room, trying to work independently. After a few edits, the book was translated into French in 1980 by native Arabic speaker Tahar Ben Jelloun, and was finally published in Arabic in 1982. In this thesis, I examine the Bowles translation, titled For Bread Alone, and the 1980 French translation, Le Pain nu, and compare them to the 1982 version of the Arabic text. I argue that Choukri’s original text is politically motivated, written to criticize the French and Spanish colonial influence on Morocco and the Moroccan economy. Choukri’s violent memoir describes abject poverty, as well as a complicated relationship between food, sex, and money, that Bowles, with his experience of Tangier as a foreign city, rewrites, either deliberately or because of his inability to understand Arabic. I make use of Lawrence Venuti’s work on translation, and in an analysis that takes the form of word-to-word comparison, as well as original translation of some sections of the Arabic, I evaluate the effects of the “remainder”— what the translator brings unconsciously to a text already inscribed with its own values, traditions, and structures—on Mohamed Choukri’s political goals in writing a “collective autobiography” of the Rifian Amazigh people in Morocco.