Mois Benarroch was born in Tetuan, (formerly Spanish) Morocco, in 1959 and came to Israel (“another planet”, he says) with his parents in 1972, at the age of 13. Fluent in English, Spanish and Hebrew, and in part self-published, he still feels like an outsider, but is accepted by the Israeli poetry community as an insider. He participates in national and international poetry festivals, and in 2009, he won the Israel Prime Minister’s Prize for Literature. He has worked in the hotel industry, as a naturopath, and was a salaried accountant for 12 years; he now devotes himself to writing. Benarroch is married to a dance teacher and is the father of three children.
In an interview with PIW’s Lucy Pijnenburg, Benarroch talks about what his languages mean to him and what he uses them for:
Spanish is my mother tongue and my historic tongue, since this language has been spoken by family for the last thousand years, Hebrew is the language of my oppression, and a fight against this oppression, it’s a father tongue and it’s a male phallic chauvinistic tongue, but it is also the sacred tongue, the tongue of the temple, somewhere deep inside. English is a kind of neutral tongue, and also the tongue of the empire.
I have written poetry in three languages and that’s not something I would recommend to anyone. It was a poetic need. It came out of the poems. I started writing poetry in English when I was 15, and did it for four years. Then I switched to Hebrew, for the next 20 years. Then I moved to Spanish because there were things that could not be written in Hebrew. Language not only describes or represents reality, it also creates it. And the modern Hebrew language is a language that has created a totally different Jewish Moroccan than I know, there are many ways to describe the Moroccan in modern Hebrew and almost all of them are negative.
Only 10 years after arriving in Israel, and at the age of 23, Benarroch’s well-known poem about his feelings as an immigrant, ‘On my going up to the land of Israel’, was discussed by prominent Israeli poet, scholar and translator Dan Pagis in the article “The pain of two homelands”, excerpted here.
The Immigrant’s Lament, Yaron Golan, Tel Aviv, 1994
The Poetry of the End of the World, Yaron Golan, Tel Aviv, 1999
The Bread and the Dream, Yaron Golan, Tel Aviv, 2000
The Weight of the Ink, Yaron Golan, Tel Aviv, 2001
You Walk on the Land Until One Day the Land Walks on You, Xlibris, 2000
Horses and Other Doubts, Iuniverse, 2000
Take me to the Sea, Iuniverse, 2001
The Immigrant’s Lament, WPC Press, 2002
Bilingual Poems Hebrew and English, Jerusalem, Moben, 2005
Esquina en Tetuan, Coleccion Esquio, España, 2000
The Next Book, Yaron Golan, Tel Aviv, 1997
Keys to Tetuan, Bimat Kedem Lesifrut, Tel Aviv, 2000
The Little Man Who Eats Seeds, Yaron Golan, Tel Aviv, 2000
A Parisian Month, Astrolog, Tel Aviv, 2002
Lucena, Astrolog, Tel Aviv, 2002
Amor y Exilios, Ediciones Escalera, 2010
An interview with Karen Alcalay Gut on Archipelago
In English and Hebrew
Publications available on Amazon
In English, Spanish and Hebrew
Mois Benarroch’s web site
YouTube video of the poet reading his work
Benarroch on Josephus Flavius’s The Jewish Wars in a new Hebrew translation
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