CDTS Lecture Series: Kamel Riahi

When and Where

Thursday, January 26, 2023 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm
100A Jackman Humanities Building (170 St. George St. Toronto)


Kamel Riahi


From the margins to International Recognition: Mouhamed Choukri - An Underground Writer Case


The Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies (CDTS) invites you to the CDTS Lecture Series, presented by Kamel Riahi.

The Year 1942- a seven-year-old child who spoke only Amazigh, arrives in Tangier with his family fleeing hunger in a village in Nador. His name was Mouhamed Choukri

Mouhamed Choukri had a miserable family life run by a convicted felon, violent junkie father who didn't hesitate to kill his youngest son for crying out of hunger. To get rid of reality, the child fled away to the street, a more violent life where Choukri had to gain his living and secure the needs of his family; He sold newspapers and cigarettes, carried heavy goods into the ports, and worked as a shoe-black in the streets.

In the fifties of the twentieth century, the young man decided to get rid of his illiteracy and learn to read and write. He graduated a few years later and worked as a teacher. In the sixties he decided to be a writer. Choukri started his literary career with violence, when he wrote a story that held the title: “Violence on the Beach”, and he signed his coming stories in newspapers with the "label"- “International Writer.” After that, Mouhamed Choukri met, In Tangiers, famous American writers and the Beat Generation well known writers, Paul Bowles, Tennessee Williams, William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and the French writer Jean Genet. His meeting with Paul Bowles was to a major turning point. With the publication of his first book in 1973 “For Bread Alone” in the United States and England, then in French ( translated by Tahar ben Jelloun), the writer was hosted in Apostrophe, the most famous cultural program at the time on the French second channel, prepared and presented by Bernard Pivot, where the Moroccan writer astonished the world with a daring and brave point of view defying all obstacles, starting from hunger and poverty and ending with language- Showing exclusive abilities of speaking French language he arguing with Bernard Pivot one the most powerful cultural program presenter in the world.

Later on Mouhamed Choukri had a series of well-known books such as:
The Tent, short stories, 1985
Time of Errors, also called "Streetwise" 1992
Jean Genet and Tennessee Williams in Tanger, 1992
Jean Genet in Tanger, 1993
Madman of the Roses, Short stories 1993
Jean Genet, Suite and End, 1996
Paul Bowles, le Reclus de Tanger, 1997
Zoco Chico, 1996
Faces, 1996
Temptation of the White Blackbird

This Moroccan writer, who came from the lowest level of life, managed to come to the world of fiction and tell his story in his own brutal and bold style, thus bringing about a huge change in the reality of Arabic autobiographical literature. For a time, his manuscripts were rejected by Arabic publishing houses, were printed in limited local copies and secretly promoted, then their distribution in various Arab countries was banned for a while, and his books were monitored in universities and banned from being taught before his fiction became a main subject of thousands of university researches everywhere in the world. Mouhamed Choukri became a symbol of the city of Tangiers, which roughed him up, then sheltered him and re-created him.

The Tunisian writer Kamal Riahi is reflecting on the fictional world of this who became a legend in modern Arabic literature, trying to present his literary world, its diversity, its place in the Arab literary scene and his role in the transformations that this literature has witnessed. He is currently teaching NML490H1S (The Art of the Diary: Questions of Form and Issues of Content) in NMC.

To attend, visit the Registration page.