A Night in Casablanca’: Bringing Mohamed Zafzaf Back to Life

It was thirteen years ago this month that Moroccan author Mohamed Zafzaf — the “godfather” of Moroccan literature – died in Casablanca. Although the French translation of his The Cockerel Egg received the Grand Atlas Prize in 1998, and the Spanish translation of his acclaimed The Woman and the Rose occasioned a letter from Spain’s king, he has been nearly absent from English translation:

Translator and scholar Mohammed Albakry writes that hepublished an English-language collection of Zafzaf’s short stories — A Night in Casablanca — in 1999. But this was  brought out by the Moroccan Ministry of Cultural Affairs, which means it’s unlikely more than a few copies made their way to readers outside Morocco.

Now, Albakry’s translation of the Zafzaf story “A Night in Casablanca” is available online at The Missing Slate. This joins a chapter from Zafzaf’s novel The Cockerel’s Egg, which is available online at Banipal, trans. Fiona Collins, as the sole works from Zafzaf’s ouvre easily available in English. There are a few others pieces that have been translated into English, including one short story in Modern Arabic Short Stories, a Bilingual Reader.

Since the Moroccan author is thirteen years gone, it’s unlikely his work will appear in wider translation now — although this, too, is possible. After all, Zafzaf has received significant posthumous attention. In 2002, a pan-Arab literature award, the Mohamed Zafzaf Prize for Arabic Literature, was created in his honor. Grantees have included Palestinian novelist Sahar Khalifeh and Syrian writer Hanna Mina.

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