The Shutters

New Directions. Jun. 2018. 172p. tr. from French by Emma Ramadan. ISBN 9780811227841. pap. $18.95; ebk. ISBN 9780811227858. POETRY
A significant cultural figure in 20th-century Morocco, Bouanani was reluctant to publish during his lifetime; along with stark depictions of war, famine, and the Spanish and French protectorates, his work scorned the government ("My country has lived for centuries off of the lies of the dead"). Many of his manuscripts were lost to fire, but this collection of mostly poems and some prose does what Bouanani wanted: "For the things I loved the most/ I want to keep my memory intact…/ the place—the names—the actions—our voices." The picture he offers isn't pretty. The shuttered house of Bouanani's youth, once "big as a dream," became the locus of nightmare: "I remember the morning of maledictions,/ the city streets beaten to death, the sun among the empty books." But it's remarkable poetry.
VERDICT Strong, instructive, strikingly translated.

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