cover image The Shutters

The Shutters

Ahmed Bouanani, trans. from the French by Emma Ramadan. New Directions, $18.95 trade paper (172p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2784-1

“My country has lived for centuries off the lies of the dead./ So it is only natural that we build sanctuaries where we heal our insane,” writes Moroccan poet, filmmaker, and dissident artist Bouanani (1938–2011) in this scathing, fearsome, and hallucinatory collection. Though The Shutters was originally released in Morocco in 1980, Bouanani composed many of its poems in the 1960s and ’70s. This translation by Ramadan also includes Bouanani’s like-minded 1989 book, Photograms, and together the two collections comprise half of the work Bouanani published in his lifetime. The poems assemble into a powerful portrait of Morocco surviving war, occupation, and the postcolonial “years of lead” under the violent rule of King Hassan II: “Our country has no more warriors/ only timeworn fig trees beaten thoroughly by/ the thousand winds of misfortune.” Bouanani describes how “the flowers have wolf’s skin, the innocent birds get drunk on beer, some even hide a revolver or a knife.” A bulwark against both state tyranny and collective apathy, Bouanani’s work mocks authoritarianism and fanaticism, despairs of Morocco’s democratic failure, and struggles to hold on to the cultural and historical inheritance its government is bent on erasing—“mouths filled/ with dirt, our poets/ keep on screaming.” (June)