Mohamed Choukri (1935-2003) is one of the most important figures of Moroccan literature. He was one of the big names that defined the genre of Moroccan literature, such as Tahar Benjelloun and Driss Chraibi. His autobiographical novel For Bread Alone (al-Khubz al-Hafi) is considered one of the classic works of Moroccan literature. But before he made a name for himself in the world of literature, Mohamed Choukri was a troubled young guy who suffered a lot in his life. Do you want to know more about Mohamed Choukri?

Here are 10 Facts about Mohamed Choukri, who was one of the leading literary figures in Morocco:

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Mohamed Choukri left his home and went to Tangier when he was 11 years old to become independent.

Mohamed Choukri lived very poorly with an abusive father. He couldn’t bear living with such a father, especially after the death of his mother and sibling. At the age of 11, Mohamed Choukri left his father’s house to live in the streets of Tangier. These streets were very cruel to him and showed him the dark side of Moroccan culture. He told his experience in the streets in the novel “For Bread Alone.”

Mohamed Choukri was once a criminal.

Before becoming the famous writer that he was, Mohamed Choukri used to associate with outlaws. He became a smuggler, thief, and even a prostitute at some points. Living in the streets is very cruel to a teenager; he had to survive doing such crimes.

Mohamed Choukri was uneducated until his year 21

It wasn’t until he turned 21 that Mohamed Choukri entered primary school. He realized that he had to learn how to read and how to write. At this point, he was studying with little kids; he was the only grown up in the school besides the staff.

During this period, he learned Classical/Standard Arabic, which was a foreign language to him.  He spoke Tamazight and the Moroccan dialect, which are different from standard Arabic that is considered more sophisticated.

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Mohamed Choukri was a school teacher.

It wasn’t until he turned 21 that Mohamed Choukri entered primary school. He realized that he had to learn how to read and how to write. At this point, he was studying with little kids; he was the only grown up in the school besides the staff.

During this period, he learned Classical/Standard Arabic, which was a foreign language to him.  He spoke Tamazight and the Moroccan dialect, which are different from standard Arabic that is considered more sophisticated.

For Bread Alone by Mohamed Choukri was banned in Morocco.

Due to the graphic sexual nature of the book “For Bread Alone”, it was banned in its home country. It was banned under the order of the Interior Minister, Driss Basri. The censorship of the book started in 1983 and didn’t stop until the year 2000. After the death of King Hassan II in 1999, Morocco has become a country that values freedom of speech more. The current king, Mohamed VI is more liberal than his father.

For Bread Alone was taught at the American University of Cairo.

“For Bread Alone” was taught at the American University of Cairo for a while before they banned it. The President of Egypt at the time, Hosni Mubarak issued the ban.

Dr. Samia Mehrez the modern Arabic literature professor who used the book in her course received multiple threats because of the book.

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For Bread Alone was translated into 30 different languages.

Soon after the English translation of “For Bread Alone” was issued, Mohamed Choukri gained international popularity. His book was translated into 30 different languages. The book was translated into English at the hands of Paul Bowles, one of the big names of American literature who were associated with Tangier.

The French edition also contributed to the popularity of the book among Moroccans. Many Moroccans prefer to read in French. The book was translated to French by one of the best Moroccan writers, Tahar Ben Jelloun.

Mohamed Choukri was friends with many big names of American literature.

In his life in Tangier, Mohamed Choukri used to meet many literary figures, especially American writers and poets who lived in this city back then. The most important American writers who used to be friends with Mohamed Choukri are Paul Bowles, Jean Genet, and Tennessee Williams. It was Tennessee Williams who said the following quote about the book “For bread Alone”: ‘a true document of human desperation, shattering in its impact’.

There are two great movies based on the novel by Mohamed Choukri.

Ali Zaoua: Princes of the streets is a movie by the filmmaker Nabil Ayouch. The movie tells the story of a child who lives on the streets. It was based on “For Bread Alone”. For Bread Alone adapted to another movie by Rachid Benhadj. It was a 2004 French-Italian-Algerian production. It starred Said Taghmaoui, who is a famous Hollywood Moroccan star. The film premiered in 2005 at the 1st edition of the Festival of Casablanca.

Mohamed Choukri saw writing as a form of protest.

Mohamed Choukri had a unique style in his writings. He saw writing as a form of protest. He used his writings to voice the desperation and suffering inherent in the human condition. He expressed that in the following quote: “I cannot write about the milk of birds, the gentle stranglehold of the angelic beauty, grasps of dew, the cascade of lions, the heavy breast of females. I cannot write with a crystal’s paintbrush. For me, writing is a protest, not a parade.”

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Morocco and the world will never forget the contributions of Mohamed Choukri in the world of literature and human expression. He was truly a genius who was destined for greatness even though his life was very hard. His humble beginnings didn’t stop him from being a great writer.

If you want to visit Tangier and check out some of the spots where famous writers like William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin, Paul Bowles, Jean Genet, Tennessee Williams, and MOHAMED CHOUKRI, check out our travel plans from Tangier.

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