“With its undulating body, I, CAUSTIC reproduces the two-pronged movement that testifies to the continuing relevance of Khaïr-Eddine’s writing: destruction and reconstruction, annihilation and regeneration, death and revival. — Khalid Lyamlahy (from the Postface)
“Khaïr-Eddine’s corroded lyric I spews the detritus of autocratic narcissism in this absurdist take-down of its patriarchs: the king and his advisors, military and police officers, husbands, fathers, older brothers. In the wake of the Moroccan student and worker uprising of March 23, 1965, which emboldened both government repression and popular movements for democracy, the characters ponder the irony of revolution when everyone has co-opted its rhetoric and wonder whether the so-called dregs of society – sex-workers, abandoned children, unemployed laborers – can rise up to prevent a nuclear Arab apocalypse. Yet from the King’s privy in Rabat to a coastal town in southern Morocco, humanity’s inhumanity is just one force of nature among so many others: what’s the point of all this trouble when you’ll end up a maggot-eaten corpse? Syersak’s energizing translation delivers into English all the poet’s acerbic humor and idiomatic exuberance. You’ll laugh so hard your inner hyena will come out. Is your blood boiling yet?” — Teresa Villa-Ignacio
“Khaïr-Eddine's excoriating satire of independent Morocco, written in the first decade of Hassan II's rule, from the remove of voluntary exile in France, performs a devastating critique of the violence of the ruling class, the incompetence of government, the hypocrisy of organized religion, and the stubborn presence of police brutality, even as it fashions radically new modes of literary and poetic expression. Sometimes crude, even grotesque, often brilliantly seductive, irreligious, and funny, Jake Syersak's bold translation into English breathes new life into this important and too-long neglected work of modern Moroccan literature.” — Thomas C. Connolly, Department of French, Yale University
Poetry. Hybrid. Middle Eastern Studies.
Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine was born in 1941 near Tafraout, Southern Morocco, of Berber heritage. One of the major Francophone avant-garde poets of his generation, he is especially well-renowned for his "guerrilla linguistic," an incendiary, Surrealist-inspired, insurrectionary style of writing. AGADIR, his first full-length work, won the Jean Cocteau "Enfants terribles" prize in 1968 and was followed by numerous works of prose, poetry, and drama, including Corps négatif suivi de Histoire d'un bon dieu (1968), Soleil arachnide (1969) Moi, l'aigre (1970), Le Déterreur (1973), Une odeur de mantèque (1976), and Résurrection des fleurs sauvages (1981). One of the co-founders (with Abdellatif Laâbi) of the magazine Anfas/Souffles (Breaths), he lived in self-exile in France from 1965, returning to Morocco only in 1979. He died in Rabat on November 18, 1995, Independence Day in Morocco. Author City: PARIS FRA
Jake Syersak is the author of the poetry books Mantic Compost and YIELD ARCHITECTURE. He is also the translator of several books by Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine. The recipient of a 2021 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant, his poetry and translations have appeared in such journals as Black Warrior Review, Colorado Review, Conjunctions, and elsewhere. He earned his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona and a PhD in English and Creative Writing from the University of Georgia.