ISSN 2330-717X

Colombian Contemporary Literature Celebrated In Moroccan University – OpEd


It is not every day that one touches ground with the rich and gratifying Latin American literature and writers, this time around luck struck, the Embassy of Colombia and the dynamic International University of Rabat -UIR- “conspired” benevolently to bring to Morocco the world-known Colombian writer Hector Abad Faciolince, to talk to students and faculty about his work translated in several world languages. This highly-interesting literary function was aptly organized by the super active and competent Professor Mustapha Bencheikh, dean of the School of Languages and Civilizations and his able staff: Sara Salmi, Habiba Zaghloul and Mouna Kandil.

Hector Abad Faciolince, the self-made writer

Hector Abad Faciolince was born in Medelin, Colombia in 1958, to a well-to-do family as the only boy -among five sisters-. He started writing at the age of twelve and never stopped since. He is considered today as a prominent Latin American writer and a talented post-Latin American Boom. His books are available in major world languages: English, French, Arabic, German, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, Romanian, etc; He has published over 14 works, the most known among them are: his bestselling novel Angosta, and more recently, El Olvido que Seremos (Oblivion: A Memoir).i His work was recognized internationally and the writer received many awards.ii

His father was a prominent doctor and philanthropist, who worked for government and international organization and traveled around the world generously helping local populations and spreading love and understanding, but he was, also, a, university professor, and human rights activist and prominent leader whose holistic vision of healthcare led him to found the Colombian National School of Public Health which allowed many Colombians rich or poor to pursue their studies easily in this specialty to serve Colombians wherever they are.

Hector Abad Faciolince started his presentation talking about his family but mainly his father, who seemingly is his own hero: my father, my idol. At an early age Hector wrote a letter to his globe-trotting father while away in one of his missions. The latter was pleasantly surprised by his son’s mastership of the words and predicted that he would become a writer and thus he became a world know writer: novelist, journalist and essayist, read in many world languages with much delight and gusto.

Hector Abad Faciolince, the magnificent story teller

The writer with the Rabat International University audience
The writer with the Rabat International University audience

Hector Abad Faciolince is truly a story teller and a good one, indeed. During his presentation he captivated the public with his personal stories. His secret: the choice of words, the nature of the characters, the tone of voice and the freshness of the narration styles. From the word go the public was receptive of his talk because the man is full of goodness and love and that made everyone feel comfortable and predisposed to be enchanted by his wonderful stories and captivated by their boundless magic.

His father Hector Abad Gomez was some sort Robin Hood or Ali Baba, almost taking from the rich and giving to the needy, especially the community of students who were poor but willing to pursue their education. In a word, his father’s generosity gave hope to the poor and his boundless humanity created so much-needed social cohesion.

My father, my hero

The father not only cared for Colombians welfare but went around the world spreading love and medical care and expertise to the poor. It seems that Colombia was not big enough for this philanthropist and medical doctor goodness to spread his love and affection to the needy. He, indeed, needed a bigger stage and he got it: a big heart for a bigger environment and the world at large benefited greatly from the generosity of this man.

Flag of Colombia.
Flag of Colombia.

The father’s heart wavered between Catholicism and secularism; he was, actually, both, in a very positive manner. But alas, our good hero was the victim of the very thing he abhorred extremism and violence. Like all good heroes, he fell prey to the violence of the extremists for the only reason that he was a good man full of love.  He was murdered by the paramilitaries in a crime that brought about shock in Colombia and other parts of the world. The writer was threatened, himself, and, as a result, he moved to Europe where he stayed for 5 years, first in Spain and later in Italy.

Hector Abad Faciolince and Mohamed Chtatou
Hector Abad Faciolince and Mohamed Chtatou

We learn from Hector Abad Faciolince that this dramatic event took place in a country torn by political extremism and drug cartel violence and that people die of gun violence as easily as they breath. Guns are easily available in the country and so is cheap violence.

The public moved by the violent death of Hector Abad Faciolince’s father and they were prepared to shed a tear or two, but the author does not want a sad ending to his story and moved on to talk about hope, dialogue and forgiveness in Colombia and, thus, brought about a happy ending to the tale.

His father was very much like Saint Martin of Tours (Latin: Sanctus Martinus Turonensis; 316 or 336 – 8 November 397), who was born in what is now Szombathely, Hungary, spent much of his childhood in Pavia, Italy, and lived most of his adult life in France, he is considered a spiritual bridge across Europe. He is best known for the account of his using his military sword to cut his cloak in two, to give half to a beggar clad only in rags in the depth of winter. Conscripted as a soldier into the Roman army, he found the duty incompatible with the Christian faith he had adopted and became an early conscientious objector.

Final word

Location of Colombia. Source: CIA World Factbook.
Location of Colombia. Source: CIA World Factbook.

Hector Abad Faciolince successfully captivated, for an afternoon, the audience of the International University of Rabat -UIR- in a wonderful literary intimacy transporting everyone through the air to Colombia, which was known to them only for its wonderful coffee and dreadful drug cartels epitomized in a recent American action film entitled “Colombiana. ”

His talk was a wonderful collective therapy extolling such universal concepts as love, affection and infatuation but also pain, death and loneliness. Everyone left the auditorium feeling light and refreshed and willing to give hugs to everyone else because this wonderful Latin American writer spread around, in words, so much love and forgiveness to go around.

Colombia, mon amour.

You can follow Professor Mohamedd Chtatou onTwitter: @Ayurinu

Malos Pensamientos (1991)
Asuntos de un Hidalgo Disoluto (1994; Eng. The Joy of Being Awake, 1996)
Tratado de Culinaria para Mujeres Tristes (1996; t: Cookbook for Sad Women)
Fragmentos de Amor Furtivo (1998; t: Fragments of Furtive Love)
Basura (2000; t: Garbage)
Palabras Sueltas (2002; t: Loose Words)
Oriente Empieza en El Cairo (2002)
Angosta (2004)
El Olvido que Seremos (2006; The Oblivion We Shall Be)(Published in the United States as Oblivion, 2012)
Las Formas de la Pereza y Otros Ensayos (2007; t: The Forms of Laziness and Other Essays)
El Amanecer de un Marido (2008; t: The Awakening of a Husband)
Traiciones de la Memoria (2009; t: Treasons of Memory)
Testamento involuntario (2011, poetry)
La Oculta (2014, novel)
Translated works
1996. The Joy of Being Awake (Asuntos de un Hidalgo Disoluto), pub. by Brookline Books in the US
2010. Oblivion: A Memoir (El olvido que seremos), pub. by Old Street Publishing in the UK, and in 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the US (2012)
2012. Recipes for Sad Women (Tratado de Culinaria para Mujeres Tristes), pub. by Pushkin Press in the UK
1997. Trattato di Culinaria per Donne Tristi (Tratado de Culinaria para Mujeres Tristes).
2008. Scarti (Basura).
2009. L’oblio che saremo (El Olvido que Seremos).
2001. Kulinarisches Traktat für traurige Frauen (Tratado de Culinaria para Mujeres Tristes).
2009. Brief an einen Schatten: Eine Geschichte aus Kolumbien (El olvido que seremos).
2011. Das Gedicht in der Tasche.
2016. La Oculta.
2000. Συvtα¡έs ¡ια απо¡оntευ έs ¡υvαίkεs (Tratado de Culinaria para Mujeres Tristes)
2001. Receitas de Amor para Mulheres Tristes (Tratado de Culinaria para Mujeres Tristes).
2001. Fragmentos de Amor Furtivo (Fragmentos de Amor Furtivo).
2009. Somos o Esquecimento que Seremos (El Olvido que Seremos).
2011. A Ausência que seremos (Companhia das Letras)
2012. Livro de receitas para mulheres tristes
2012. Os Dias de Davanzati (Basura).
2005. 深谷幽城 (Angosta) The four Chinese characters mean, respectively: deep, valley, faint or dim, and castle, so an attempt to a translation would be “The deep valley and the dim castle”. Héctor Abad Faciolince’s name is rendered in Chinese as 埃克托尔·阿瓦德·法西奥林塞.
2010. Het vergeten dat ons wacht (El Olvido que Seremos).
2010. L’oubli que nous serons (Gallimard)
2010. Angosta (Lattès)
2010. Traité culinaire à l’usage des femmes tristes (Lattès)
2014 النسيان (El Olvido que seremos)
2014. Suntem deja uitarea ce vom fi (Curtea Veche)

ii. 1980. Colombian National Short Story Prize for Piedras de Silencio
1996. National Creative Writing Scholarship; Colombian Ministry of Culture for Fragmentos de Amor Furtivo.
1998. Simón Bolívar National Prize in Journalism.
2000. 1st Casa de America Award for Innovative American Narrative for Basura.
2004. Best Spanish Language Book of the Year (People’s Republic of China) for Angosta.
2006. German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) fellowship.
2007. National Book Award; Libros & Letras Latin American and Colombian Cultural Magazine for El Olvido que Seremos.
2007. Simón Bolívar National Prize in Journalism.
2010. Casa de America Latina, Lisboa [5]
2012. WOLA-Duke University Human Rights Book Award

Dr. Mohamed Chtatou

Dr. Mohamed Chtatou

Dr. Mohamed Chtatou is a Professor of education science at the university in Rabat. He is currently a political analyst with Moroccan, Gulf, French, Italian and British media on politics and culture in the Middle East, Islam and Islamism as well as terrorism. He is, also, a specialist on political Islam in the MENA region with interest in the roots of terrorism and religious extremism.

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