The Bottom of the Jar is the journey of a boy finding his footing in the heart of Fez during the 1950s, as Morocco began freeing itself from the grip of the French colonial occupation. The narrator vividly recalls his first encounters with the ebullient city, family dramas, and the joys and turbulence of his childhood. He recalls a renegade, hashish-loving uncle, who at nightfall transforms into a beloved Homer, his salt-of-the-earth mother¢s impassioned pleas to a Divine ear, and his father¢s enduring generosity. Told in the spirit of a late-night ramble among friends where hilarious anecdotes and poignant recollections flow in equal parts, Laâbi¢s autobiographical novel offers us a generous glimpse into the formative experiences of a great poet, whose integrity and commitment to social justice earned him an eight-and-a-half year prison sentence during Morocco¢s "year of lead" in The 1970s.
I was in Fez when the fall of the Berlin Wall was announced. That morning, the family had come together at my father’s house, and the television was already on. But no one around me was interested in those historical images scrolling past on the screen.
If Europeans are obsessed with background music, Moroccans have invented the background image, and without skimping on decibels either. In our home, clamor and din seemed to be inextricably mixed with our joy at coming together as a family.
Excerpted from The Bottom of the Jar by Abdellatif Laabi. Copyright © 2013 by Abdellatif Laabi. Excerpted by permission of Archipelago, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Fire. Germination. Birth. Blood. All these themes are burnished and boned image by image until they echo through Abdellatif's book.... Abdellatif Laâbi, as you will see, is a member of the same cell as Dostoevsky, Hikmet, Soyinka, Cervantes... —Breyten Breytenbach, for Rue du Retour
By the winner of the Goncourt Prize for Poetry The Bottom of the Jar is surely the novel I wrote with the greatest joy. —Abdellatif Laâbi
At once classic (in tone) and modern (in form), The Bottom of the Jar is imbued with humor and a sensibility that gives it a certain magic. The result: two hundred fifty pages of pure pleasure. —La Vie Economique
A master of his art. —Le Nouvel Observateur
A valuable book: inventive and philosophically amusing, it assures us that despite dark times, human virtue still shines in Maghreb with a clarity that is unquestionably brightest in the old city of Fez. —J.M.G. Le Clézio, winner of the Nobel Prize
The Bottom of the Jar is an authentic and beautiful bildungsroman in which life and political struggle take place in one space, with the demand for Moroccan independence joining the need for personal emancipation in a sublime way. —Quotidien National
Created with gentleness and with fury, with words that thrill the soul, that cry out with the urge to live, with hope and with suffering —Jeune Afrique
The great power and subtlety of the work lies in the fine balance it strikes between that Peter Pan–like sensitivity, vulnerability and imagination, and the brutality of the real world, history and politics. —The Daily Star (Lebanon)
Laâbi's poetic voice consistently raises a song of possibilities above the dirge of cruelty. —Victor Reinking