Roland Glasser with the blog Arabic Literature reports on the public reading by Moroccan poet Abdellatif Laâbi at London’s Free Word Centre on February 18th. The reading was held at the launch of his newest book of poems, the dual-language “Poems/Poèmes.” Instead of Arabic, Laâbi’s’ poetry is written French, a fact that draws considerable attention from his audiences given his country of origin.
“Abdellatif Laâbi is virtually unknown in the English-speaking world, yet is considered by many to be not only Morocco’s foremost contemporary poet, but one of the most important poets writing today. Just three years ago, he was awarded the Goncourt Prize for Poetry, France’s highest literary award.”
During the event, Laâbi was asked why he writes in French, a language imposed on Moroccans during the period of French colonial rule.
“‘Every mother tongue is imposed, just like every colonial language, so why not write in whatever language you wish? […] It’s no bad thing to find yourself between two or three cultures. Count yourself fortunate to be an agent of dialogue between these cultures.’”
If you are studying a language, in what ways has this experience developed your understanding of another culture? How do you view language as an instrument for intercultural understanding?