Abdellatif Laabi // Victor Serge: New Translations
September 28, 2017, 7:00 PM
In Praise of Defeat (trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith) is the first English-language collection of Abdellatif Laabi's poetry, spanning six decades of political and literary change, innovation, and struggle from one of the central writers and thinkers in contemporary Maghreb letters. The Russian Victor Serge’s A Blaze in a Desert: Selected Poems (trans. James Brook) bears witness to decades of revolutionary upheavals and the advent of totalitarian rule, with many of the poems written during the "immense shipwreck" of Stalin's ascendancy. Donald Nicholson-Smith and Christopher Winks discuss Laabi and Serge's enduring influence.
Abdellatif Laabi is regarded as one of the most important contemporary Moroccan writers, publishing many volumes of poetry, as well as several novels and plays since the late 1960s. Laabi has consistently criticized the authoritarian and theocratic regimes of the Maghreb with an outspoken incisiveness that has led to the closure of his seminal literary journal Souffles as well as his eight-year imprisonment from 1972-1981. His work has been banned and marginalized by the Moroccan government, however Laabi's writings have been increasingly visible and influential on the international scene. During Laabi's imprisonment his cause was championed by Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, and he was awarded the Prix de la Liberte, PEN Club, and the Prix International de Poesie.
Victor Serge (1890-1947) was an anarchist firebrand, who wrote three novels, was arrested, and lived in precarious exile throughout his life.
Donald Nicholson-Smith is a translator and freelance editor living in New York City. His translations include Jean-Patrick Manchette's Three to Kill, Thierry Jonquet's Mygale, and Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle, among many more.
Christopher Winks teaches Comparative Literature at Queens College/CUNY. His essays, reviews, and translations have appeared in numerous venues. Labyrinth, his translated anthology of writings by Cuban poet Lorenzo García Vega, is forthcoming in 2018 from Junction Press.