Choukri, Mohamed

Mohamed Choukri

2 Contributors

Mohamed Chukri (Berber: Muḥemmed Cikri, Arabic: محمد شكري), born on July 15, 1935 and died on November 15, 2003, was a Moroccan author and novelist who is best known for his internationally acclaimed autobiography For Bread Alone (al-Khubz al-Hafi), which was described by the American playwright Tennessee Williams as "A true document of human desperation, shattering in its impact".

Choukri was born in 1935, in Ayt Chiker (Ayt Chiker, hence his adopted family name: Choukri / Chikri), a small village in the Rif mountains, in the Nador province, Morocco. He was raised in a very poor family. He ran away from his tyrannical father and became a homeless child living in the poor neighborhoods of Tangier, surrounded by misery, prostitution, violence and drug abuse. At the age of 20, he decided to learn how to read and write and became later a schoolteacher. His family name "Choukri" is connected to the name Ayt Chiker which is the Berber tribe cluster he belonged to before fleeing hunger to Tangier. It is most likely that he adopted this name later in Tangier, because in the rural Rif family names were rarely registered.

In the 1960s, in the cosmopolitan Tangier, he met Paul Bowles, Jean Genet and Tennessee Williams. Choukri's first writing was published in Al-adab (monthly review of Beirut) in 1966, a story entitled "Al-Unf ala al-shati" ("Violence on the Beach"). International success came with the English translation of Al-khoubz Al-Hafi (For Bread Alone, Telegram Books) by Paul Bowles in 1973. The book was translated to French by Tahar Ben Jelloun in 1980 (Éditions Maspero), published in Arabic in 1982 and censored in Morocco from 1983 to 2000. The book would later be translated into 30 other languages.

His main works are his autobiographic trilogy, beginning with For Bread Alone, followed by Zaman Al-Akhtaâ aw Al-Shouttar (Time of Mistakes or Streetwise, Telegram Books) and finally Faces. He also wrote collections of short stories in the 1960s/1970s (Majnoun Al-Ward, The Flower Freak, 1980; Al-Khaima, The Tent, 1985). Likewise, he is known for his accounts of his encounters with the writers Paul Bowles, Jean Genet and Tennessee Williams (Jean Genet and Tennessee Williams in Tangier, 1992, Jean Genet in Tangier, 1993, Jean Genet, Suite and End, 1996, Paul Bowles: Le Reclus de Tanger, 1997). See also In Tangier, Telegram Books, 2008, for all three in one volume.

Mohamed Choukri died on November 15, 2003, from cancer at the military hospital of Rabat and was buried at the Marshan cemetery in Tangier on November 17, with the audience of the Minister of Culture, numerous government officials, personalities and the spokesman of the King of Morocco. Before he died, Choukri created a foundation, Mohamed Choukri (president, Mohamed Achaâri), owning his copyrights, his manuscripts and personal writings. Prior to his death he provided for his servant of almost 22 years.