Artists 2010 – Bilingual Love: Poetry from the Maghreb

Mohammed Bennis

Mohammed Bennis (b. 1948 in Fès, Morocco) is one of the Maghreb's most important poets alongside Adonis and Mahmud Darwisch. He was only 21 when he published his first collection of verse; now he has nearly a dozen books of poetry, as well numerous books of essays and translations (Bataille, Mallamé). Bennis writes in Arabic, not in French, which is far from being a matter of course in Francophone Maghreb. He says that he is obsessed by the future of the Arabic language. As well as working as a writer, Bennis, who now teaches at the University of Rabat, founded the journal "Attakafa El Jadida" ('New Cultures') and the "Editions Toubkal" press; he is also the president of the "Maison de la Poésie" in Casablanca.
Bennis has received many prizes and awards internationally, including the 2007 International Prize for Literature and the big Maghrebian Prize in 2010.
Publications (a selection):
Chant pour un jardin de l´eau, Les patits du grande pirate, Paris 1999.
La don du vide, l´Escampette, Bordeaux 1999.
Désert au bord de la lumière, Al Manar, Neuilly 1999.
Fleuve entre des funérailles, l´Escampette, Bordeaux 2003.
Die Minze erblüht in der Minze. Arabische Dichtung der Gegenwart, Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich 2008.
Mohammed Bennis at ZVAB

Siham Bouhlal

Siham Bouhlal (b. 1966 in Casablanca, Morocco) is a writer and translator living in Paris. She studied Literature at the Sorbonne. She translates mediaeval and contemporary Arabic texts into French. Her own poems are short and elegant, sensuous and elegiac at the same time. She writes in free verse completely without punctuation so as to enable the reader to experience the rhythm directly. The subjects she deals with in her poetry are the great subjects of all literature – love and death. Although Bouhlal writes her poems in French, their wealth of colours and scents clearly place them in an Arabic tradition. Bouhlal has published three books of verse. Her first book of prose, "Princesse Amazigh", appeared last year.
Publications (a selection):
Le livre de brocart ou La société raffinée de Bagdad au Xe sieclé, Gallimard, 2004.
Poèmes bleus, Tarabuste, 2005.
Songe d´une nuit berbèrer ou La tombe d´épines, Al Manar, 2007.
Corps Lurnière, Al Manar, 2008.
L’art du commensal ou boire dans la culture Arabe, Actes Sud, 2009.
Princesse Amazigh, Al Manar, 2009.

Youssef Rzouga

Youssef Rzouga (b. 1957 in Mahdia, Tunisia) is one of the Maghreb's most important writers. His earliest poems date from the early 1970s. They are marked by their innovativeness and reveal their author's encyclopaedic knowledge covering not only literature but also mathematics, biology and physics. What is remarkable is his attitude to the various literary traditions he moves among, transferring, for instance, Arabic prosody into his poems written in French. His texts bear witness to an inexhaustible imagination, which makes itself apparent above all in totally original imagery. His aesthetic feel and his familiarity with the intonations of poetries from the Arab and European past have allowed him to find his own unmistakeable voice.
After studying in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in Tunis, he studied political science at the Institute for Press and Information Sciences. He is currently working as a journalist. His contacts with younger poets in the course of his work in the Club du mercredi littéraire and as the head of the cultural section of the Alayyam newspaper, enabled Rzouga to have a great influence as an artist on the 1990s generation.
He has been distinguished with many prizes and awards, including the First Prize of the Culture Ministry of Tunisia three times (in 1981, 1985 and 1998). He received the Chebbi Prize in 2003, and he was awarded the Arabic Prize for Poetry in Jordan in 2004 and in Egypt in 2005.
Publications (a selection):
Je vous transcende par mes tristesses, I’m distinguished from you by my grievances, 1978.
Le programme de la rose, The program of the Rose, 1984.
L´astrolabe de Youssef le voyageur, The Astrolabe of Youssef the traveler, 1986.
Le loup dans le verbe, The Wolf in the Word, 1998.
Le pays d´entre les deux mains, The Country Between the Hands, 2001.
Fleurs de dioxide de l´histoire, Flowers of Dioxide of History, 2001.
Proclamation de l´état d´alerte, Emergency Case Declaration, 2002.
Le papillon et la dynamite, The Butterfly and the Dynamite, 2004.
Yogana (le livre du Yoga poétiques), Yogana (The Book of Poetic Yoga), 2004.
Oeuvres poétiques, Poetical Works (Volume I),2003.
The ground zéro, Ground Zero, 2005.

Habib Tengour

Habib Tengour (b. 1947 in Mostaganem, Algeria) is a poet, novelist and essayist living in Paris. He is the prototype of a Maghrebian migrant.. Tengour says of himself, "Exile is my profession." He describes the singularity of the Maghreb like this: "There may be a clearly-defined place called Maghreb, but the Maghrebian is always somewhere else. And only there is where he realises himself." This attitude is reflected in his work. His poems circle unceasingly around the subject of living in exile and the cultural identity of Algeria. The heroes of his texts, like he himself, straddle the boundaries of East and West, between tradion and the modern. As an academic, too, Tengour addresses the problems of migration and migrants, focussing on Algerian mine workers. He has published numerous books, and his most recent publication to appear in German is the verse collection "Seelenperlmutt".
Tengour’s works available in English translation include the poetry collection “Empedokles’s Sandal” (1999), and the narrative poem “The Old Man of the Mountain,” contained in Pierre Joris’ book "4X1" (2003).
Tengour teaches sociology and ethnology at the Université d’Evry.
Publications (a selection):
Die Bogenprobe, Beck und Glückler, Freiburg 1993.
Der Fisch des Moses, Haymon Verlag, Innsbruck 2004.
Seelenperlmutt, Schiler Verlag, Berlin 2009.
Habib Tengour at ZVAB