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Morocco honours Edmond Amran El Maleh

By Naoufel Cherkaoui for Magharebia in Rabat – 23/12/10

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Renowned Moroccan writer Edmond Amram El Maleh planned to talk about his latest book, Lettres à moi-même (Letters to Myself) in Rabat on December 17th. His unexpected death turned the event at the National Library into an occasion to celebrate the Jewish and Amazighi novelist's work.

He died November 15th at the age of 93. El Maleh achieved fame despite a late start in writing, at age 63.

"Edmond was a man open to other cultures and was keen on acquiring new knowledge and new friends," said Karima Yatribi, a professor at the Faculty of Arts, King Hassan II University in Casablanca.

"He was also a Moroccan to the bone, and used to speak lovingly about his country on a continuous basis. The late writer has left behind an individual mark in the artistic, literary and philosophical arena, given that he was deeply-rooted in the cultural pluralism of Morocco, a country that encourages the right to different opinion, promotes a spirit of openness and rejects the logic of exclusion. We find a lot of these trends in the thought of the late writer, who was focusing on the Moroccan-Jewish heritage," Yatribi added.

He refused to immigrate to Israel, and considered himself to be a Jewish citizen of his country. He also struggled for the independence of Morocco when he was a member of the Communist Party. However, his opposition to some aspects of late King Hassan II's policies forced him to immigrate to France to teach philosophy.

"Through the late writer's books, especially Parcours immobile (Road to Nowhere), Aïlen ou la nuit du récit (Aïlen, or the Night of Storytelling), Mille ans, un jour (A Thousand Years in a Day), and Le Retour d'Abou El Haki (The Return of Abou El Haki), we see that all these texts reflect the Moroccan cultural memory," Yatribi added. "This is because, to Edmond Amram El Maleh, there is no writing without a memory. The late writer, who was writing and speaking in French on a permanent basis, was accurate in his use of words. He was also known to often use old words from the Moroccan darija in his speech."

As to the last book by the late writer, Yatribi said that it "largely summarises the volume of literary, philosophical and artistic writings of the late writer who had a philosophical, academic nature and who lived for a long time away from his own country. This was why he had that feeling that made him write a book about his origins. He wrote his last book as a philosopher, with the aim of focusing on the enigmatic dimension of the existential experience which one lives in this world."

In his turn, Moroccan National Library Director Driss Khrouz said that "the last book of the late writer shouldn't be considered as a will just because it was released before his death. He always refused to talk about himself, out of a belief that the individual was not important, and that Morocco and its peculiarities were more important. He refused to be in the forefront, and used to say that all that he has ever done in his life was aimed at sowing love."

"The man remained to be a great figure in producing sublime human values, whether in thought or behaviour," Moroccan journalist Lehcen Laasbi said. "This was because he was drawing on the huge well of the Moroccan Jewish behavioural education, which has no equal anywhere else in the entire world. His national political commitment, struggles in support of Palestinians' rights, anti-Zionism struggles, and his profound literary taste reflect that cultural wealth which he has learnt from his Moroccan cultural origins with their multiple wealth."

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    naimou 2010-12-25

    Morocco lost thousands of Jews in the 1960s. Many of these citizens had unfailing love for their country. Currently, they are Israelis or they belong to Jewish Diaspora throughout the world. They also share the spirit and the philosophy of Elmaleh. They continue to love and defend their country, Morocco, which has not forgotten them. I am convinced that they would be able to sacrifice themselves for their nation if it were in danger.