Nicolas Niarchos talks to Moroccan novelist and playwright Youssef Fadel in The New Yorker, in “’To Be a Writer You Have to Be Against the State’: Youssef Fadel Illuminates Morocco’s Past and Present”:
Fadel without his signature hat with translator Alex Elinson. Photo credit: The Moroccan- American Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange
From the piece:
We walked over to a hotel lobby near the rail station, where Fadel told me about falling in with a leftist crowd during his youth. He began writing plays in the nineteen-sixties. “All culture back then was Marxist. Not just here—in Europe, too! The sixties was an era of Marxism everywhere in the world. That was culture. When you wanted to make something cultural, when you read, you read engaged writing. Engaged novels. Engaged theatre,” he said. We spoke in French, and Safia, who is fluent in English, helped me whenever I stumbled on a word.
“To be a writer you have to be against the state, firstly,” Fadel insisted. “Against everything—the writer is a demolisher. He or she must demolish all taboos, all statues, all idols. And, of course, he or she cannot look for help from anyone.” The state will not and cannot help in this vision, he said; the writer must forge ahead on his or her own. “Moroccan writers are the people who made Moroccan literature, not the state. The state did nothing, and will do nothing. And that will continue like that, and we don’t care.”
You can read it all at The New Yorker and then read an excerpt of Fadel’s A Beautiful White Cat Walks with Me, tr. Alex Elinson, at Hoopoe Fiction, followed by an excerpt of A Rare Blue Bird Flies with Me, tr. Jonathan Smolin.
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