Abdellatif Laâbi is without a doubt the major francophone voice of Moroccan poetry today. Shaped by struggle and the pain of exile, Laâbi’s expressive simplicity reflects both a life worn to the bone and a resilient, embracing spirit. Laâbi’s is a poetry of protest – internally tumultuous yet delicate verse that grapples with political and spiritual oppression. This collection of poems, selected by Laâbi himself, shows the evolution of his style. From the mutilated syntax and explosive verse of his early work to the subtle lyricism and elegant constructions of phrase that characterize him now, Laâbi never ceases searching, demanding, penetrating.
Each poem testifies to Laâbi's revolt against silencing, oppression, and exclusion, promoting an alternative world based on resistance, love, and commitment...Laâbi reaffirms the ability of poetry to transcend borders, celebrate human desires, and denounce atrocities and horror, from Madrid to Baghdad.
— Khalid Lyamlahy, The Poetry Review
The great power and subtlety of the work lies in the fine balance it strikes between that Peter Pan–like sensitivity, vulnerability and imagination, and the brutality of the real world, history and politics.
— The Daily Star, Lebanon
Keeping pace with the long poems that are Abdellatif Laâbi's distinctive achievement – the poems of torture and imprisonment in Morocco, or 'People of Madrid, Pardon' written in response to the train bombings of 2004 – an English-speaking reader like me inevitably keeps waiting for the public voice, the high style of anger and compassion, to falter or overreach. But Laâbi's voice does neither. Donald Nicholson-Smith's translations hold fast to this poetry's unnerving eloquence and simplicity, and its hell-for-leather speed.
— T.J. Clark
As the new collection In Praise of Defeat, deftly translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith, shows, Laâbi’s early poems are poems of protest and of incarceration. They powerfully evoke the need for poetry to bear witness...In Praise of Defeat presents a poet-activist who was born in the direst possible circumstances, survived them, and has continued on a trajectory of art and activism. He shows any poet how the artistic space created by “poet, activist, former prisoner, exile” is the space where the most crucial acts of art happen.
— Emily Wolahan, The Quarterly Conversation
Laâbi's poetic voice consistently raises a song of possibilities above the dirge of cruelty.
— Victor Reinking
Laâbi has always been interested in inviting his readers to imagine what it would look like for a society to publicly honor, rather than privately imprison, the poets responsible for unmaking its own language.
— Max Nelson, The Paris Review
Abdellatif Laâbi’s rhythm and flow come through in these incantatory verses of struggle and love for a reimagined land. He may be heeded or ignored, but the prophet-poet has spoken.
— Christopher Schaefer, World Literature Today
As In Praise of Defeat shows, Laâbi’s early poems are poems of protest and of incarceration. They powerfully evoke the need for poetry to bear witness.
— Two Lines PressThat Laâbi recognizes the link between understanding our time and understanding memory is profound, and should serve as an example to other authors.
— Jordan Anderson, The Coffin FactoryLaâbi is by some credited ... with re-invigorating French poetry and outdoing the poets of metropolitan France... Laâbi’s writing has become a constant taking stock in relation to the ominously changing world, continually raiding the inarticulate, pitting himself against ‘aphasia’ and the self-imputation of failure, painting an apocalyptic picture but eventually sounding the soft music of hope... In Praise of Defeat is a lovable brick of 800+ pages...
— Leslie Bell, PN Review In Praise of Defeat allows us the rare pleasure of watching a revolutionary mind work tirelessly over time and through all manner of political weather in pursuit of that route -- it's a towering demonstration of what it means to make poetry, and its capacity to dignify and elevate the small and sometimes miserable details of struggle into a practice of struggle.
— Ryan Kaveh Sheldon, American Book Review