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Archipelago Books presents Abdellatif Laâbi's IN PRAISE OF DEFEAT, featuring translator Donald Nicholson-Smith and Emma Ramadan

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

Laâbi’s work removes all doubts about the power of words. His vibrant poetry is imbued with all the human passions. It goes straight to the essential, fears nothing, scorns aesthetic fashion and poetical correctness. It attests with simplicity to what is complex, relentlessly exploring the human condition between Pascalian grandeur and misery and fanning the flames of our capacity for resistance. --Françoise Ascal

Abdellatif Laâbi is a torrent of raw words, clear, intimate words that only death could staunch. He harries us with poems that strike fast and true, reaching us at random, snatched from an inner conversation pursued day and night with himself, with others, with his ghosts, with his love, with his enemies, and imparted in snatches like the words of a friend walking beside you in the street amidst the earsplitting din of the traffic. --Jean Pérol

Donald Nicholson-Smith was born in Manchester, England and is a longtime resident of New York City. His translations, ranging from psychoanalysis and social criticism to crime fiction, include works by Thierry Jonquet, Guy Debord, Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Henri Lefebvre, Raoul Vaneigem, Antonin Artaud, Jean Laplanche, and J. B. Pontalis. His translation of Apollinaire’s Letters to Madeleine was short-listed for the 2012 French-American Foundation Prize for Nonfiction and in 2014 he won the Foundation’s Fiction Prize for his translation of Jean-Patrick Manchette’s The Mad and the Bad.


Emma Ramadan is a literary translator based in Providence, Rhode Island, where she is also the co-owner of Riffraff, a bookstore and bar. She is the recipient of a Fulbright scholarship, an NEA Translation Fellowship, and a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant, all for her translations of Moroccan writer Ahmed Bouanani's poetry. Her other translations include Anne Garréta's Sphinx, Fouad Laroui's The Curious Case of Dassoukine's Trousers, Anne Parian's Monospace, and Frédéric Forte's 33 Flat Sonnets.