For bread alone by Mohamed Choukri

This is my second read for the arabic summer reading challenge it is Mohamed Choukri’s the first of his trilogy of autobiographical novels ,Chourki lived a lot of what is in for bread alone ,having himself lived on the streets of Tangiers as a child .on its publication in 1966 it was banned in morocco ,til 2005 when it was finally published . so the book starts with Mohamed’s poor family deciding to move to Tangiers in search of a better life ,as their is a terrible drought and starvation where they are .

My mother kept telling me : be quiet .tomorrow we,re leaving for Tangier .there,s all the bread you want there .you won’t be crying for bread any more once we get to Tangier .

so the family set of ,and things don’t go well along the way the young Mohamed loses siblings and has to deal with his tyrannical father and when they reach Tangier he is drawn in to the seedy side of the cosmopolitan city ,end up in a world of petty criminal and lady’s of the night  .this is the start of a downward spiral for the young Mohamed .His brutal father beats on of his siblings to death .Mohamed eventually ends up in the arms of the law and prison ,which turns out to be his redemption as he discovers the written word and that there is more to life than what he has already seen ,

My little brother never had chance to sin .All he did was to live his illness .the old man who had helped to bury him told me : your brother is with the angels .has he become an angel  perhaps ? And I what shall I become ? A devil ,most likely .They say the little ones are angels and the big ones devils ,and it,s too late for me .

The end of the book you sense Mohamed has grown .

This book is simple written as a straight narrative ,in place Mohamed ‘s story remind me of Dickens stories you get the same sense of a large city having a dark underbelly and a dark underclass of people .He also wonderful transports you to the Tangiers of the time ,a real melting pot of a city with ex pat french and spanish arabs ,Berbers and others .In places this book is brutal ,Mohamed had a hard life but in the end you are given hope .Paul Bowles worked alongside Chourki on this translation ,as you’d expect it is fluid Bowles is a great writer himself and did a great job on Mohamed’s book .The book is published by Telegram book .

Winston’s score –


a camel ,there stubborn born survivors ,and a essential in north africa still ,very like this book ! 

this is part of the arabic lit challenge.

July 2010


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