Mohammed Choukri: A Success Story

The life story of Mohammed Choukri is an inspiring one. Following a troubled childhood, he was able to raise himself up to become one of the greatest novelists and authors to emerge out of Morocco.

In 1935, famine was rampant in the village of Beni Chiker, nestled in the Rif Mountains, where Mohamed Choukri was born on 15 July. His father was extremely abusive, which led to young Mohamed running away from home and becoming one of many homeless children on streets of Tangier. It is amazing that a child who grew up surrounded by drug abuse, tragedy, prostitution and uncontrolled violence, would be able to pull himself out of his situation and rise to the great heights that he did.

Tragically, eight of his siblings passed away due to malnutrition and neglect, but Mohammed Choukri was lucky enough to find employment with a French family. At the late age of twenty, in 1955, Choukri took on the challenge to teach himself how to write and read, and went on to become a school teacher. His experiences as a child lead to him writing his most famous book – his autobiography called For Bread Alone. Even Tennessee Williams, a famous American playwright, commented that the book was a true account of how human desperation can shatter a life.

Choukri met Williams during the 1960s, along with Jean Genet and Paul Bowles. He enjoyed the satisfaction of his first publication in 1966, with his novel Violence on the Beach. But his international success and fame was derived from For Bread Alone, which was later translated in 1973 by Paul Bowles. Even though the autobiography was a censored novel in Morocco (due to its candid accounts of drug use and sex) between the years of 1983 and 2000, it was published in Arabic in 1982. It was eventually be translated into another thirty languages and distributed throughout the world. Mohammed Choukri’s other works included The Tent (1985), Time of Errors (1992), Jean Genet and Tennessee Williams in Tanger (1992), Madman and the Roses (1993), Zoco Chico and Faces, both released in 1996.

Mohammed Choukri created a foundation before his passing in Rabat in 2003, which owns the rights to all his personal writing and his manuscripts. He also made provision for his servant, who remained at his side for approximately twenty-two years. He was buried in Tangier’s Marshan Cemetary, and the ceremony was attended by many celebrities, government officials and the King of Morocco’s spokesman. Choukri is an inspiration to many, as he proved that, if ambitious enough, anyone can take themselves from their undesirable circumstances and create a brighter future.