Revolutionary Papers

Revolutionary Papers is a transnational research collaboration exploring 20th century periodicals of Leftanti-imperial and anti-colonial critical production. Read More


1. Souffles-Anfas
The Moroccan cultural journal Souffles-Anfas [breaths] ran between 1966 and 1971, when it was banned by the Moroccan government and its founder Abdellatif Laâbi was arrested, imprisoned, and tortured for sedition. The journal was published quarterly (with some double-issues) and ran 22 issues over its brief history. Modestly priced at 3 Moroccan Dirhams, distribution averaged 3-5,000 copies an issue. Initially published as Souffles in French, the journal expanded to publish bilingual and Arabic issues titled Anfas in its final years. Souffles-Anfas was primarily distributed in Morocco, but reached subscribers in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Latin America. Alongside Laâbi, the initial editorial board consisted largely of avant-garde poets and writers. As the board’s constitution shifted, the journal moved increasingly towards Marxist-Leninism and Arabic language cultural production. It eventually became the mouthpiece for the leftist party ila al amam [meaning “forward”] founded in 1970 by Laâbi and fellow Souffles-Anfas editor Abraham Serfaty—who was sentenced to life in prison along with Laâbi, but went into hiding until 1974. After the government clampdown on the journal and its founding members, two underground “dossier” issues were published out of Paris, in January and October 1973, that focused on “repression in Morocco.” Laâbi was released from prison in 1980 and went into exile in Paris, while Serfaty remained in prison until 1991. In 2010 Laâbi signed an agreement with the curator of the Moroccan national library BNRM to digitize and make accessible the journal’s initial 22 issues, which are available here:

2. “(Non-)Aligned in Print: Anti-Colonial Aesthetics in Souffles-Anfas (1966-1971)”
Proposed for Counter-Cultural: Literary & Cultural Resistance in Periodicals

This paper is part of a larger book project that critically explores Arabic, Francophone, and bilingual cultural journals in the Maghreb (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia) from roughly the 1930s-1970s. The study addresses the diversity of Maghrebi periodicals across aesthetic, formal, and ideological registers to better understand the capaciousness of the cultural journal as a hybrid genre.

For the Revolutionary Papers collective, I am focusing on the anticolonial Marxist-Leninist journal Souffles-Anfas which was published in French and Arabic from 1966-1971. The periodical’s inaugural editorials frame their mission as “cultural decolonization” mobilizing “terrorist” and “guerilla” literary techniques. Addressing the increasingly Marxist-Leninist orientation of the journal’s editorial collective—referred to as either comité d’action or group d’action—my paper maps Souffles-Anfas’ aesthetic evolution by exploring the journal’s auto-theorization across editorials, manifestos, op-eds, and dossiers. Specifically, it focuses on the periodical’s reflections on decolonization, language politics, as well as supranational political and cultural alliances across the global south (pan-Arab, pan-African, tricontinental, non-aligned).

Scholars commonly periodize Souffles’ transformation from an avant-garde francophone journal with tricontinental affinities specializing in poetics to Anfas as a militant mouthpiece of the Moroccan left focused on regional decolonization—and particularly the question of Palestine (Olivia Harrison 2013 & 2016; Andy Stafford 2009; Teresa Villa-Ignacio 2017). Accounting for pivotal historical crises and movements that shaped this period—from Vietnam to Cuba to Algeria; from the June 1967 war to May 1968—this paper considers the anti-colonial and Marxist-Leninist leanings of the journal across both its francophone and Arabophone writings.

Souffles-Anfas’ subtle tension between the ‘literary’ and the ‘cultural’ is reflected in its rebranding from reveu poétique et littéraire [poetic and literary magazine], to revue maghrébine littéraire culturelle trimestrielle [quarterly Maghrebi literary cultural magazine], to revue culturelle arabe du Maghreb [Arab cultural magazine from the Maghreb]. While its final issues excise the ‘literary’ from its generic subheading, the journal nonetheless continues to publish literary works alongside manifestoes, treatise, op-eds, and dossiers. Interrogating the ways in which Souffles-Anfas’ political aims are formally and aesthetically staged across languages and genres, I attend to the dialectical, dialogic, and polyvocal qualities of the cultural journal.

Hoda El Shakry

Hoda El Shakry is Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago specializing in twentieth- and twenty-first century literature, visual culture, and criticism from North Africa and the Middle East—with an emphasis on the relationship between aesthetics and ethics. Her book The Literary Qurʾan: Narrative Ethics in the Maghreb (Fordham University Press 2020) […]