Expanding the Moroccan Storytelling Circle: Adaptations of Indigenous Moroccan Orality from Paul Bowles’ Five Eyes to Betsy Bolton’s Maghrebi Voices

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Undergraduate student
Paul Bowles
World literature
Third space

This essay examines the traces of indigenous Moroccan oral storytelling in various collections of translated work. By focusing on the variations of form across these collections, and highlighting the commonalities between these stories, this essay argues that traces of the oral tradition found in translations from Morocco are evidence to the survival of its storytelling roots, and that these adaptations create an opportunity for the growth of new spaces in the tradition. A key example is Paul Bowles’ Five Eyes, a 1979 text adapted from the oral stories of illiterate Moroccans. Being both a set of performances adapted into writing, as well as a set of collaborative translations, Five Eyes moves between genres. This essay considers such movement through a background of cultural mediation, utilizing Homi Bhabha’s concept of “third space”. It also offers the analysis of a consistent literary style across texts originating in orality as well as in written form, by using Joseph Frank’s now-classic framework of spatiality and temporality in narrative structure. Using Five Eyes to build a perspective towards the process of literary adaptations from oral traditions, this essay enters more recent Moroccan collections. Such narratives include Mohamed Said Raihani’s “The Moroccan Dream” – a collection of contemporary written translations by Moroccan authors. This essay then enters the discussion of the halqa storytelling tradition in Morocco through Richard Hamilton’s The Last Storytellers, to provide a comparison in style between legitimated and illiterate indigenous storytellers. These stories, though having diverged from a common heritage, show similar styles, structures and grammatical cues that originate in oral performance. Betsy Bolton’s website, Maghrebi Voices, provides a contemporary endpoint, juxtaposing components that occur in each previous example, including recorded oral stories, written narratives, commentary and translated works, on an online platform.

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
Rights remain with the author.
Mark Deggan