For Bread Alone
“A true story of human desperation, shattering in its impact.”—Tennessee Williams
Driven by famine from their home in the Rif, Mohamed’s family walks to Tangiers in search of a better life. But his father is unable to find work and grows violent. Mohamed learns how to charm and steal. During a short spell in a filthy Moroccan jail, a fellow inmate kindles his life-altering love of poetry.
The distinguished writer Paul Bowles, perhaps best known for his novel The Sheltering Sky, collaborated closely with Mohamed Choukri on the translation of For Bread Alone, and penned the introduction.
had been swallowing while I was in the presence of Señor Alba. (That was the name we used to give him in the old days.) I was thinking: If there’s anybody in the world I wish would die before his hour comes, it’s my father. And if there were others, they would surely look like him. How many times have I killed him in my mind? All that’s needed is for me really to kill him. I refused to eat the meal, although it tempted me. I did not want to be late to the cinema. I had decided to eat chicken and
he would be sitting here in my place eating. I’d be just as hard and crazy as he is. I awoke in the Hospital Nacional, breathing slowly. They had pumped my stomach. I could still feel the cramps. His voice reminds me of the needle going into the flesh when the injection is badly given. Her voice: Asleep. He’s got to eat with us. He’s tired. He’s been working very hard with me at the stall. She puts him off. Which is why I do not hate her as I do him, or wish for her death as I do for his.
father will get out of prison and she will find work. She says her prayers and lights candles at the tombs of the saints. She looks for luck at the fortune-teller’s. There is no way out of prison, there is no work, no luck, save by order of Allah and Muhammad his prophet; this is what she says. I began to think: Why doesn’t Allah give us our good luck the way he gives it to other people? I passed the question to my mother. That’s something we can’t ask, she said. He knows much better than we do,
bent forward, clutching myself with both hands, while stars of pain flashed in front of my eyes. He kicked me again in the same spot. I fell and rolled down a few steps. The bottle smashed, but I went on holding the neck in my hand. He kicked again, and I ducked so he would not hit my face. His foot hit my hand instead. He went on kicking with both feet, furiously, while I made every effort to see that he did not get my face. A girl’s voice came from a nearby window: That’s enough! Leave him
shining white mist of the sky was like an egg that had been broken onto a blue plate. The animals and birds and insects have begun their morning praise of Allah. When a donkey brays, its sound drowns out the songbirds, doves and roosters. She is undressing. Asiya, she is taking everything off. Her pyjamas slide down like a curtain falling. She’s all undressed. Asiya, she’s naked. Asiya’s naked. How bright she is! Full breasts, their points protruding. Below, black hairs outline a triangle. My