Driss Chraibi was bon in El Jadida (formerly Mazagan, French Morocco), a town near Casablanca. His father was a tea merchant, who perceived Western education as a means to modern Morocco. Chraibi attended Koranic school as a young boy. When the family moved to Casablanca, Chraibi continued his studies at the French Lycee. At age of nineteen he went to France planning study chemical engineering and neuropsychiatry. After abandoning his studies, he traveled throughout Europe and Israel.
Chraibi settled in France with his first wife and children, and eventually devoted himself in 1952 to literature and journalism. In 1954 Chraibi began writing for the National Radio and Television Broadcasting System. In 1978 he married Sheena McCalliion. From his first marriage he had five children. Chaibi taught in Canada for a year after his second divorce but returned then to France. Chraibi’s works have been translated into English, Arabic, Italian, German, and Russian. Chraibi remained in France until his death.
He died on April 2, 2007, in the village of Crest, where he had lived since the mid-1980s. His body was brought back to Morocco and buried in in the Cimetiere des Chouhada in Casablanca. As a novelist Chraibi made his debut with Le Passe simple (The Simple Past), which was published in 1954, two years before Morocco gained its independence. The book arose much controversy because of the inflammable political situation in the North Africa. Chraibi was criticized as a traitor to the Arab world and French conservatives saw that the book revealed the reason for French presence in Morocco.
The protagonist in the novel is a young man, Driss, who revolts against his tyrannical Moslem father. The father banishes Driss from the home and Driss begins his wandering on the streets. Finally he returns to home only to find that his mother has committed suicide in his absence. The novel ends with Driss’s departure for France. Driss is an outsider in his own country, oppressed by his family and the feudal, religious traditions. Chraibi was so disturbed by critics, that he publicly rejected the novel in 1957, but later regretted his action.
The book was banned in Morocco until 1977. Chraibi’s next novel, Les Boucs (1955, The Butts), was set among the Arab immigrants living in poverty in France. One of the characters was based apparently on Francois Mauriac; the narrator is an Algerian writer, whose hopes to find understanding among his countrymen is hindered by their illiteracy. The book was ahead of its time – Chraibi was the first North African writer to examine the issue of migrant workers, before the subject became an issue of widespread debate.
L’ane (1956) was a tragic story of a rural barber, Moussa, who finds his prophetic mission and death in changing Morocco. Succession ouverte (1962) continued the story of Ferdi Driss, who returns to Morocco for his father’s funeral. Driss has spent sixteen years in France, but now re-establishes his relations with his mother and brothers. Gradually Driss realizes how old family values have given way to the ideas of the West. “Remember, Driss?
Would any of us have dared to start dinner before he got back, whether it was after midnight or dawn? You remember, don’t you? “< Un ami viedra vous voir (1967) was set in the modern bourgeois Paris. La civilization, ma mere (1972) was about the self-realization of a housewife in Morocco shortly before and during World War II. The protagonist is a cloistered Arab mother, who becomes a symbol of Third World liberation. Arab feminists have acknowledged Chraibi ‘s sympathetic portraits of women with respect.
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