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The Symphony of Resistance

Bilingual Edition

poems by Abdellatif Laâbi
translated from French by Guillemette Johnston and Allan Johnston

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Abdellatif Laâbi is an internationally renowned poet and activist famous for his support of Arab liberation and unity. He has received numerous prestigious accolades, and his work has been translated into Arabic, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch, Turkish, and English. His poetry has been central to post-colonial Moroccan literature and important to the development of Arabic literature generally. In the 1970s Laâbi served an eight-year prison sentence in Morocco for  crimes of opinion” against the Moroccan state after he helped found Souffles-Anfas (Breaths), a central journal in the growing movement of post-colonial Arab literature during the 1960s.  Since the 1980s Laâbi has lived in France in forced exile. Laâbi’s poems in The Symphony of Resistance address themes of human rights, the history of oppression in colonized countries, globalization, freedom, love, the Arab world after liberation, and the role of the poet. Given events pertaining to and resulting from the Arab Spring, this collection will appeal to readers interested in contemporary poetry, both in academia (students and scholars of North African literature, Middle East Studies, Francophone Studies, etc.) and beyond. The timely questions also have special resonance in the current American context, especially as concerns diversity and social justice.

POETRY / European / French

ISBN: 978-1-962082167 (print; softcover; perfect bound)

LCCN: 2023952371

294 pages


Abdellatif Laâbi is a poet, novelist, playwright, translator, and political activist. He was born in Fez, Morocco, in 1942. In the 1960s, Laâbi was the founding editor of Souffles-Anfas, or Breaths, a widely influential literary review that was banned in 1972, at which point Laâbi was imprisoned for eight and a half years. Laâbi’s accolades include the Prix Goncourt de la Poésie (2009), the Académie Française’s Grand Prix de la Francophonie (2011), and the Roger Kowalski Award for Poetry for Presque riens (2021). Laâbi’s works have been translated into Arabic, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch, Turkish, and English, and Laâbi himself has translated into French the works of Mahmoud Darwish, Abdul Wahab al-Bayati, Mohammed Al-Maghout, Saâdi Youssef, Abdallah Zrika, Ghassan Kanafani, and Qassim Haddad.

Guillemette Johnston is a professor of French at DePaul University. A specialist in Rousseau and the French Enlightenment, she has also taught broadly in the areas of French and Francophone literature, as well as Liberal Studies Program focal point courses on the Yoga Sutra of Patañjali and the psychology of fairy tales, and DEI sophomore seminars on Race, Power, and Resistance. She has lived in the French Caribbean and Algeria, and has authored a monograph on Frantz Fanon that appeared in the Dictionary of Literary Biography. Francophone courses she has taught include sections on Islam and France, Haiti, the shattering of identity by immigration and colonialism, French Canadian literature, the problem of identity in the French Caribbean, and Maghrebi novels of childhood. She is coeditor of JPSE: Journal for the Philosophical Study of Education, and a cotranslator (with Allan Johnston) of poems published in AzonaL, MayDay Magazine, Metamorphoses, Ezra, Transference, and Milles Feuilles. She is the author of Lectures poétiques: La Représentation poétique du discours théorique chez Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1996), and has published scholarly articles in Romanic Review, French Forum, Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, Pensée libre, Études Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the MLA Approaches to Teaching series, and elsewhere.

Allan Johnston earned his M.A. in Creative Writing and his Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Davis. His poems have appeared in over sixty journals, including Poetry, Poetry East, Rattle, and Rhino. He has published three full-length poetry collections (Tasks of Survival, 1996; In a Window, 2018; Sable and Selected Poems, 2022) and three chapbooks (Northport, 2010; Departures, 2013; Contingencies, 2015), and has received an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship, Pushcart Prize nominations, and First Prize in Poetry in the Outrider Press Literary Anthology competition. His translations and cotranslations with Guillemette Johnston of poems from the French and German have appeared in AzonaL, Ezra, MayDay Magazine, Metamorphosis, and Transference. He has taught writing and literature at several colleges and universities, including most recently Columbia College and DePaul University in Chicago. He reads or has read for Word River, r.kv.r.y, and the Illinois Emerging Poets competition, and is coeditor of JPSE: Journal for the Philosophical Study of Education. His scholarly articles have appeared in Twentieth Century Literature, College Literature, and several other journals.


“Guillemette and Allan Johnston’s incisive translations render Abdellatif Laâbi’s bold poetry in an English that is both natural and deftly composed, with an intentionality and expertise that is incredibly satisfying. Laâbi’s compelling writing—by turns angry, despairing, musing, sometimes tender, and always fierce—is given a new voice here, one that startles the reader awake with the full force of the power of language.”
Molly Lynde-Recchia, Ph.D., former editor of Transference

“Allan and Guillemette Johnston's masterful and sensitive new translation makes the depth and power of Abdellatif Laâbi's work accessible to an anglophone audience.”
Thalia Pandiri, Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature, Smith College, and Editor-in-Chief, Metamorphoses


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