Is Mohamed Choukri's "For Bread Alone" a Picaresque Narrative?

Bachelor Thesis, 2009

21 Pages, Grade: A: 16/20

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As the title of the topic seems to suggest, my thesis sets out to examine Mohamed Choukri’s autobiographic narrative For Bread Alone (edition of 1993. London: SAQI Books) with reference to the picaresque literary genre in an attempt to identify some of the common characteristics which might be held to relate this narrative to this general literary tradition. My purpose here, in other words, will be to show to what extent Choukri’s narrative can be related to the picaresque genre. This will be achieved notably through the endeavor of defining and identifying some of the ways that For Bread Alone manifests itself as a picaresque narrative.

Studying For Bread Alone seems to be an interesting attempt because of two basic reasons: one is internal, related to the literary narrative itself and the other is external. On the one hand, as a literary text, For Bread Alone makes itself open to structural analysis. It is rich with different formal elements that construct the narrative’s texture and give it a sense of unity. By virtue of their nature, these elements therefore are worthwhile and thus merit detailed discussion. On the other hand, the narrative is also interesting because it seems to offer insights on the life of a famous Moroccan author, Mohamed Choukri, especially information on how he lived his childhood. Further, by way of extension, the narrative may also serve as a social document on the lives of unprivileged Moroccan social groups.

A number of scholarly articles and analyses have been written on For Bread Alone. Some of these seem to examine the narrative from a post-colonial perspective. An outstanding example here is Ghazoul’s article on For Bread Alone titled as “When the subaltern Speaks” which appeared in Al-Ahram Weekly (February,1999). In this article, Ghazoul holds Choukri’s narrative as a modern example of “a subaltern autobiography”. Others, however, seem to revolve around the psychological aspect of the narrative and how the act of writing might be read as an act of self-emancipation from repression on the part of Choukri (Sabery’s scholarly article on For Bread Alone,1992).

These, however, could not sufficiently focus on the literary significance of the narrative itself, notably the formal elements of the text. My contribution, therefore, lies within this range of interest. I will aim at looking for some answers to the following set of questions: to what extent can we relate For Bread Alone to a literary tradition such as picaresque literature? What are the major thematic issues which the narrative seems to address? And finally, there any variations between the traditional picaresque novel as it is commonly understood and For Bread Alone ?

Apart from the introduction and conclusion, my paper will be divided into three parts. In the first part, I intend to discuss some of the thematic and formal picaresque characteristics distinguishing this genre from others. This will include a discussion of the literary rogue, the several literatures in which it first appeared as well as its counterpart Spanish term. This will also include a discussion of the literary features of the picaresque narrative as a tradition developed out of the importance of this term.

The second part will entail an application of most of the picaresque features to the narrative under study. I will, in other words, apply some of those thematic and formal picaresque features outlined in the first part to For Bread Alone and discuss their relevance to the narrative. I will also explain and interpret the supposed reasons behind using some of those picaresque features on the part of the author.

As to the last part, it will be essentially evaluative. I will give a brief restatement of most of the major points discussed in the paper. I will also define some aspects which make For Bread Alone somewhat different from the typical picaresque narrative.

To begin with, we can claim that the concept of the rogue character itself is notoriously ubiquitous and relatively original to a considerable number of cultures. It is a universal concept shaped by variant manifestations observed among many societies and literatures. To support this point, a brief discussion of three classic literatures would properly serve our purpose here.

At a certain stage in their evolutionary scale, Latin, medieval European and Islamic literatures fostered some character traits and features similar to those of the Spanish picaro -- a literary term which would be discussed in detail later on in this paper. A suggestive instance proving this claim may be teased out of three classic fictional rogues in these literatures: notably that of "clever slave" found in Plautus’s comedies, the mythical figure of Reynard made prominent in most of European tales and that of Abu Al Fath al-Iskandari-- a fictional character in Al Hamadani’s narratives.

Plautus’s comedies offer a striking case of a Latin figure, the clever slave, who demonstrates some of the attributes of a literary rogue. He is usually depicted as "a rascal, an amoral figure, the creator of tricks and resolver of situations" (Biagio et al. 19). Chased out throughout his various undertakings and devices, this slave therefore proves skilful and knowledgeable enough about how to intrigue his interlocutors, including his masters. Furthermore, in accordance with the domestic requirements he is supposed to perform on behalf of his masters, the rogue-slave is also a great deal concerned with his personal gain. This is because as he is careful to "win love for his young master," he is also determined to get "praise and possibly even freedom for himself" (Sharrock and Rihiannon 182). As a matter of fact, then, the clever slave is essentially a rogue character who lives by his wits.

On a parallel line too, European folkloric tales, particularly some of the allegorical tales, might be proven to have enhanced in their turn a literary example of an intriguing classic rogue character whose differentiating features have been prominently established in the figure Reynard. "In these tales, Reynard has all the characteristics of the fox […] especially deceit and cunning" (Wood 120). For a brief discussion on the historical emergence and rise of this figure, one can refer to the Greenwood Encyclopedia of folktales and Fairy Tales by Donald Haase (published by Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008). Reynard’s tale, thus, seems to confirm and credit the idea that this figure is indeed a rogue character.

As for medieval Islamic culture, an interesting rogue character model might be easily identified in the prose narrative episodes, known as maqamat in Arabic literature, of the prolific Abbasid writer, Badie Zaman Al Hamaddani (967-1007). A maqama is "a short narrative written in rhymed prose (saj’) that often consists of a recasting of any number of well-known literary, scholarly, or religious discursive styles" (477). In these maqamat, similarly, Abu Fath al Iskandari, the rogue figure, is characterized as an intelligent character of different persuasive skills and gifts. The plot of these maqamat usually enfolds as follows: as he addresses his hearers in an appealing way, Abu Fath al Iskandari manages to draw sympathy from his audience, and thus succeeds in convincing these to give him some of their money as an act of charity on their part (Meisami et al. 507). For him, this should not be by any chance a risky undertaking as a result of which he fails to hide his real character. Before they could manage to figure out that he is a trickster, Abu Fath al Iskandari, therefore, quickly disappears and gets away with money-- taking everyone by surprise including Eissa Ibno Hicham, the narrator himself.

Given this, almost every culture in turn may claim its share in this figure of the universal rogue in terms of contributing some of its peculiar aspects to the establishment of an overall picture of this character. Convincingly enough, the concept of the character of the literary rogue then remains fundamentally the same regardless of the different terms it may have had in most world literatures. Yet, perhaps a sufficiently detailed characterization of this figure can be observed in Spanish literature. The equivalent term for this figure is the Spanish word "picaro". The following definition sheds some light on this Spanish character:

Usually [the picaro] is sly, wary, and not without malice. Often an urchin or urban castaway, as morally obtuse as he is savvy with respect to his own survival […] The protagonist both suffers and administers violent and memorable punishments. He gets along by "mingling naiveté and awareness, simplicity and cunning" […] The character of the picaro can vary from a rather halpess, though clever, bumpkin to a trickster who manipulates others with cruelty and finesse .(A New Handbook of Literary Terms, 223)

As the definition makes clear, then, there are a number of prominent features and behavioural traits with which we can identify the character of the picaro. These nonetheless might be better approached from a social, personal and moral perspective. As far as his social status is concerned, the picaro is often a victim of circumstances. He is depicted either as an orphaned child, or an elder outcast who appears to lead an unprivileged social life. In both of cases, as Peréz and Ihrie state , he "struggles to survive, going from master to master and from town to town in search of work, food, shelter, and a better life" (476). His life, thus, is deeply marked by social insecurity. On a personal level, the picaro seems to be considerably affected by this factor. For him, life is an arena on which survival is possible only for the fittest. He is convinced that to survive is to lead a life of roguery and deception (Peréz and Ihrie 476). Most of his actions, thus, appear to be motivated by this belief. Yet, this does not follow that he shows no flexibility of character. Rather, his behavior is mostly dictated by the nature of the incident he might encounter. Under threatening circumstances, for example, the picaro deems it fitting to give his enemies impressions of simplicity and naivety. Usually, however, he is cunning and intelligent. Trickery and cheating are part of his day-to-day undertakings. As he exists on the margins of society, feeling himself of no merit but rather rejected, the picaro chooses not to abide by the rules of his society (Peréz and Ihrie 477). This leads us to consider his behavior. As far as this particular point is concerned, Peréz and Ihrie affirm that he is "a man without honor […] His life is full of resentment" (477).

An interesting historical fact pertaining to the discussion of the picaro is the fact that the frequency of dealing with this character gave rise to a very important genre in Spanish literary history---the picaresque narratives. Gies states that the earliest examples of these "were composed as fictional autobiographies" (198). They seem to be exclusively concerned with the adventures and journeys of their protagonists.

More importantly, picaresque narratives might be characterized by two literary aspects: one is thematic and the other is formal. Thematically approached, picaresque narratives often seem to feed on the social problems and concerns of the society in which they originate and manifest themselves. A particular case in point here is Spain of the sixteenth and seventeenth century. As Chandler explains, the social conditions at the time furnished an ample pretext for making the literary reaction expressive of a social one (44). A classic example which is illustrative of Chandler’s point is the narrative of Lazarillo de Tormes (translated by Rudder, 1973). It is a narrative of social struggle for "a destitute youth" who "embodies the lifelong toil of an outsider who rarely transcends his impoverished circumstances" (Maiorino 4). The following excerpt may better summarize this thematic issue in the narrative:

Oh, Lord ! I said then. What a life full of ours are ! […]Day and night I Kept thinking about how I was going to keep myself alive. And I think that hunger lit up my path to these black solutions : they say that hunger sharpens your wits and that stuffing yourself dulls them, and that’s just the way it worked with me. (The life of Lazarillo de Tormes, Part One and Two 53. Edition 1973)

The most prominent example is Cervantes’s Don Quixote. This narrative is also entangled with considerable social significance and meaning, particularly to some of the social group which were predominant in the society of the author. As it is exemplified by these two narratives, most of picaresque narratives, then, might be taken to be concerned with issues of poverty, deprivation and social insecurity. A very outstanding literary device by way of which these issues are foregrounded is satire.

From a formal perspective, on the other hand, the picaresque narratives can be generally identified with five major characteristics. First, they are narratives built on an episodic plot structure. According to Madison, an episodic plot structure "consists of discrete units, little stories in themselves, that are part of a longer story'' (143-44). This implies that the sequence of episodes will not necessarily develop according to a causal relationship and that each episode may be held as self-contained, consisting of its own elements such as different settings, characters and events. Second, these narratives are primarily adventure tales---an aspect which drives the reader to be interested in "the fascinating characters, incident and meaning these have on the protagonist "(Lyon 34). Third, they are often narrated in the first-person narrative mode. Fourth, they normally entail a protagonist who is typically a rogue character and who stands as a model of the normally anti-hero. Finally, these narratives often seem to enhance a realistic manner of representation because, as in Chandler and Schwartz's words, "they proved that views of life, the low as well as the high, can fascinate [...] and can be made appealing" (122). This means that they foster a vivid description of the manners of the community which they depict.

By way of comparison, Choukri's autobiographic narrative For Bread Alone in this respect is worth studying because it offers an opportunity for identifying lines of similarities with the conventional picaresque narratives. With various degrees, we can claim then that Choukri's narrative seems to successfully model itself on the picaresque narrative.

In this connection, one of the first aspects which may interest us here as regards examining For Bread Alone for points of similarity is the thematic significance of Choukri's autobiography. The narrative enfolds as follows:

Earlier as we first encounter Choukri, the narrator, we happen to realize most of the details surrounding the life and social environment of this character. Born to an unprivileged Riffian family in time of drought-induced famine affecting Morocco under colonial France and Spain, the narrator proceeds to relate his life story: a story of deprivation and social insecurity accompanied by a sense of fantasy experienced in the form of constant adventures. Frequently abused by his unemployed father, Choukri decides to seek his own way and fend for himself away from his unhappy family. Although a harsh life of vagabondage and delinquency may be the only alternative in horizon for a child of his age, this is for Choukri nonetheless a better option than being the constant object of his father's rage. As a result of this choice, then, Choukri starts to earn his own living by himself. A bread- provider for himself as he becomes now, Choukri's life gradually turns out to be entangled with different aspects of hardship, exploitation by others and complete loss to drugs and sex escapades. The following excerpt best summarizes this point:

The man who runs the café uses me, too, since he makes me work longer than I should. But what can I do? I can steal from anybody who uses me [...] I smoked in secret. The first time I ate a piece of maajoun I fainted [...] I understood that I was only I, face to face with myself. The men in the café encouraged me to smoke kif and eat maajoun. Daytimes it was kif and work, but at night it was maajoun and fun [...] the café owner saw nothing strange about a twelve-year-old boy who got drunk and smoked. He too drank and took hashish. I knew that what interested him was making money. Some nights I slept on a bench in the café. Other times it was at the Spanish bakery nearby. (25-26)

Clearly then, these statements reveal the nature of the social environment in which the protagonist appears to be entangled. Equally too, they may serve as a clear indication of the life which Choukri would grow used to. Indeed, this seems to be the case with this character as he further gets to narrate.

Thematically considered, then, For Bread Alone deserves to be held as a strong example of a narrative of a social struggle for survival. It is a story of social alienation of a character that spends a significant time of his childhood up to his twenties suffering from family discord, physical abuse, and abject poverty. In this sense, we can say that For Bread Alone develops its thematic content according to the model of the picaresque novel.

More importantly so, if we consider the narrative from a formal perspective, it would also assist us in defining more points of similarity between For Bread Alone and the picaresque narrative. In this respect, we first examine the plot structure of the narrative. It has an episodic structure. It seems to be composed of a set of minor episodes or tales, each one of these may be dealt with in separation from one the other. Some of these episodes may even be deleted from the narrative without causing any disruption at the level of story development. To illustrate this point further, we may exemplify our case with a number of relevant episodes. Among these, three examples offer themselves as strong cases here.

The first one of these is the episode in which we happen to observe Choukri being employed by Segundi, a Spanish family. As he makes clear, Choukri learns how to cook, do the dishes, and perform various domestic tasks. Serving Segundi's family, so speaks Choukri, seems to be comfortable. This, however, does not last very long. One day, Choukri messes with Madame segundi's photo album. As a result, he is punished and sent back home.

The second different episode which serves our point here is when the narrator introduces us to the details of another story in his life. In this, Choukri describes how he gets to know and accompany two pickpockets, Abeslam and Sebtaoui: "one morning I sat in a café smoking kif with two pickpockets. We decided to work together that day in order to spend a night of debauchery at the brothel" (57). The narrator, then, proceeds to describe how he spends some days at Abeslam’s house drinking wine and meeting several prostitutes there? The episode concludes with the scene of Abeslam and Sebtaoui’s arrest.

The third example of these is the episode about the story of Kebdaoui, Qaabil and Sallafa. It is also a different story which describes how the narrator gets to know these characters and their plan to smuggle contraband. In this episode, the narrator first recalls how he is introduced to Qaabil, a dangerous smuggler, and to Sallafa, this smuggler’s mistress. He then narrates how he takes risks on both sides: to join Qaabil’s gang of smugglers, and second, to dare and sleep with Sallafa. This episode ends with Qaabil’s death and Sallafa’s escape from the house.

As it is clarified by the three examples, the whole story of For Bread Alone is but a set of short stories. These may be claimed to have their own elements such as different settings, characters and major events. Segundi’s episode, for instance, is a case in point. The characters of this episode are Segundi’s couple, their parents, Choukri’s aunt and the protagonist. Its settings are Segundi’s house and farm. Also, the major event of this episode seems to be Segundi’s care and protection of the protagonist. The climax of this episode, if we may venture to say, seems to be when the narrator messes with Madame Segundi’s photo album. The episode ends with Choukri being dismissed from the house. Neither these characters nor the places reappear in the narrative once again. Among many others, this is only one example of the set of episodes forming For Bread Alone. Each episode, therefore, is self-contained. It might be recorded in another place in the narrative, or be deleted and this causes no disharmony in narration. Clearly then, For Bread Alone is a narrative of an episodic plot structure.

Interestingly enough, one of the benefits behind the choice of choosing this plot structure may lie in its usefulness in covering a multiple of events and places. For example, in For Bread Alone, we happen to follow the protagonist through most of his childhood up to his twenties. By virtue of this structure, therefore, we have the opportunity to know about this character. Also, this structure allows for accumulating as many places in the narrative as possible. Tangier, Tetuan, Oran, farms, brothels and cafés are part of the various places mentioned in For Bread Alone. Another interpretation behind the use of the episodic narrative structure might be that it allows the narrator to develop another parallel sub-plot along with the basic one. At its basic terms, a subplot can be defined as “a secondary action” taking place in the narrative which involves “a different set of characters” (Brown). This is the case with For Bread Alone. Along with the major stream-line of events which notably centers on the life and adventures of the protagonist, the narrator occasionally manages to shift the reader’s attention to the recent news about Choukri’s family. This is clearly noticed in the following example. Early in the narrative, while the narrator in a scene describes how he is indulging in his pleasures, he suddenly changes the story and shifts the focus on his family. He goes: “each afternoon my father comes home disappointed. Not a movement, not a word, save at his command” (11). On another occasion too, he informs us about the latest news concerning his mother: “she goes to the city in search of work. She comes back disappointed, just as my father used to do when we first arrived in Tangier” (13). Still on another occasion, Choukri informs us about what happens to his father. He says: “once a week my mother goes to see my father in jail” (20). These are some of instances of how the narrator manages to establish a parallel secondary action that conforms to the major course of actions in the narrative. As far as the stories of For Bread Alone are concerned, these are characterized essentially as adventure tales of a rogue character, in this case Choukri himself. The narrative seems to be sufficiently rich with episodes in this scene. Furthermore, we may define some primary motifs behind these adventures which assist us in categorizing them according to a set of patterns. If we examine the narrative closely, we can establish two very salient motifs that trigger the protagonist’s journeys and adventures: one is the motif of hunger and the other is the motif of mere fantasy. Consequently, this divides the narrative into two basic sets of adventures.

The first set is the adventures provoked by hunger. As early as the narrative enfolds, we happen to encounter the first instances of these adventures. Choukri says: “one day when the hunger had grown too strong, I went out to Ain Keitout to look in the garbage dump for bones and ends of dry bread’’ (10). Another example is Choukri’s adventure of the pear tree of the first part. In this, Choukri is attracted by a pear-tree to the extent that he breaks into the orchard in which there is the tree. He picks one pear, but unfortunately he gets caught by the owner of this orchard who shuts him in a secluded room (17-19). A further example of this pattern of adventures is the incident of the city harbor. In this scene, the narrator describes how he desperately goes to the port of the city in order for him to find some food because his “insides are growling and bubbling’’ and he feels very hungry (74). After desperate attempts to find a piece of bread, Choukri’s effort ends with his abuse at the hands of some porters elder than him. He says “they swore at me, spat on me […] A muscular young man gave me a hard kick and chopped me on the back of my neck’’ (76). These are some instances of the first setoff the hunger-driven adventures which are present in For Bread Alone.

The second set consists in the fantasy-driven adventures. Perhaps, most of Choukri’s adventures seem to be driven by this motif. A primary trigger, however, behind these is sexual obsession. In one of his notorious adventures, Choukri sneaks into the garden of an old house, climbs a tree and watches a girl take a bath. Then, he plays tricks on this girl, making her "search wildly for her pyjamas" (29). As the narrative further develops, we see the narrator gradually grow up and adopt more audacious sex adventures than the previous ones. Choukri makes it clear: "one day my friend and I decided to visit a brothel" (35). He then proceeds to describe the details of this adventure and how he comes to discover and know much about sex. Another example of this pattern of adventures is when the protagonist chances to watch stealthily Madame Segundi change her underwear. A further example of this pattern also is when the narrator takes risks to sleep with Sallafa, Qaabil's mistress. On the other hand, all these adventures seem to be accompanied by other aspects of fantasy. One of these is the aspect of takings drugs, smoking kif and drinking wine. Also, another aspect of this fantasy is the interest of entangling oneself into difficulties. One day, while having breakfast in a café, for instance, the narrator suddenly entertains the idea that he should pick somebody's pocket.

He says: "a new day to live through. What should i do during this new day? Will I manage to pick somebody's pocket?" (81). A further example is Choukri's adventure of smuggling contraband products. Because he has now grown up, Choukri decides to get into this dangerous activity. He justifies his choice with the following statement: "it's an adventure, and I feel like a man. In any case, I'm seventeenth" (116).

By their nature, these adventures---as they apparently seem to indicate---entail the existence of a protagonist who demonstrates some behavioral traits that are typical of a picaresque rogue character and that also identify him as an anti-hero. Despite the controversy surrounding the definition of this term, we can derive a general definition of this figure.

According to Chandler:

The anti-hero is everything, and nothing: everything in what he does, nothing in character [...] sometimes he is up and sometimes down ; today rich and tomorrow poor [...] life is a problem to avoid, not to solve. He is employed only in gathering data, crude sensations, common experiences, with which he does nothing. (47-50)

Trying to observe these traits in the protagonist of our narrative of study, Choukri does seem to demonstrate some of these. As far as the way he acts and behaves is concerned, the protagonist seems to be satisfied with what he does. In response to his aunt's earnest urge to stop acting notoriously, Choukri justifies his eccentric behaviour as follows: "but I have to. I like everything that's wrong. Those are the best things" (54). Also, on another occasion, he reveals how he misses the life of brothels and prostitutes. He says:" I remembered the orchard at Ain khabés, Asiya undressing [...] and the whores at the brothel in Tetuan" (48). Still on another occasion too, reacting in a defiant way to Kebdaoui's advice for him to stop having more glasses of wine so that he could not get drunk, Choukri says :" I could drink this whole bottle without moving it from my lips" (129). The more our protagonist indulges and enjoys his doings, therefore, the more he seems to expose his real character: a figure who is not worthy of respect and admiration. Furthermore, as these pleasures demand money and cost much, the protagonist's financial situation is always at stake. Sometimes, we happen to find the protagonist with money. As soon as he starts his bad habits, however, Choukri goes broke.

Taking into consideration the life challenges most literary characters encounter in their way, they have the choice either to accept their situations and be defeated or fight and improve their situations to overcome their problem. Choukri, in this case, seems to accept his problems as they are. He says: "how will I have to go on living by myself? Ought I to go on accepting this life as it comes up each day or not?" (85) Choukri's behaviour proves that he appears to prefer the first choice. Since the protagonist chooses this particular one, we can claim that he is indeed an anti-hero.

On another level of analysis, like the typical picaresque narrative, For Bread Alone is narrated in the first-person narrative mode. The "I" element permeates the whole linguistic structure of the text. Almost every scene is described though the narrator's point of view.

This is clearly noticed even as the narrative is about to enfold:" I stand crying [...] I know that this is not the same [...] I hurt myself [...] I began to see that many people cried "(2). This narrative mode develops hand in hand with the tales and adventures of the narrative. In fact, the narrative itself concludes with a scene of eleven lines with four instances of the personal subject pronoun "I": "I laid down the flowers [...] I said to myself [...] what shall I become?"(169)

The use of this narrative mode might be motivated by two outstanding reasons. First, it can appeal to the sympathy of the reader in an attempt to draw the latter to identify and sympathize with the protagonist of the narrative. By virtue of introducing the stories and events of the narrative through the "I" element, the narrator dramatizes every incident he encounters in a way he makes the reader aware of what he feels, how he reacts and what impact the incident may have on him. Thus, the narrator manages to establish the background for making his narrative appear appealing. Second, this first-person narrative mode can allow for a clear articulation of the individuality of the protagonist. By the aid of these techniques, then, the narrator may set himself in a better position to articulate his acts and judge the events from his personal perspective. In this sense, For Bread Alone bears similarity to the typical picaresque narrative because it is narrated through the first-person.

As far as the last picaresque characteristic of this narrative is concerned, For Bread Alone embodies and enhances a realistic manner of representation. This is shown in the way the author represents his narrative. At the level of the language, the narrative seems to be fully rendered through short and simple sentence sequenced one after another ___ a way that parallels how the actions of real life themselves take place. Also, the choice of words seems to matter in this respect. The author describes what he sees and experiences in plain words--- a way that often amounts to a chocking language. Furthermore, the idea that the narrative must represent the life of the author as it is given in reality appears to be a fundamental motive for Choukri here. By carefully choosing the type of the adventure he relates, the author manages to shift the reader's attention to lives of some particular social group with which he comes in contact. Vagabond, porters, fishermen, soldiers and prostitutes, among many others, are all brought to the fore in this narrative. This is simply because the author wants the reader to realize that these are the people with whom he is associated. As to the setting, most of the places and locations in the narrative refer to real places: thus, they serve the author's purpose to a great extent. Actual cafés, ports, brothels, jails and cheap hotels are all transformed into stages upon which the narrative's adventures take place. This is the sense in which the narrative enhances a realistic manner of literary representation.

In short, these are some of the major picaresque characteristics identified in For Bread Alone. In so far as most of the thematic and formal picaresque features have been largely defined and extracted from Choukri's narrative , it can be certainly asserted that this narrative models itself on the picaresque narrative as it is widely understood.

If it is approached from level of analysis, on the other hand, this narrative appears to have also successfully adopted and implemented some of the very basic structural picaresque features conventionally established in most of other classic narratives that constitute the models of this genre. Features such as an episodic narrative structure, tales of adventures and fantasy escapades, first-person narrative mode, an anti-hero and a realistic manner of representation all do exist in for Bread Alone.

Yet this does not follow that this narrative could not allow some room for variations. Indeed, it can be argued that the narrative almost lacks in a sense of humor typical of picaresque story because we can identify no comic scenes in it. Yet we can identify some scenes in the narrative which could be held as comic scenes such as making love to tree, making Asiya search wildly for her clothes, and frightening an old man to the point that the latter seeks God's help saying bismlahh eh rahman rahim. Second, apart from some hunger driven adventures, most of the other adventures which the protagonist undertakes appear to center around one interest, namely that of indulging in sexual pleasures. One can further claim that this becomes an end in itself and not just a means by virtue of which the author aims to raise and sound some of his concerns to his audience. Finally, there seems to remain one aspect which makes the narrative variant and which also entangles it with much controversy. This is obviously the vivid manner of representation in the narrative-- an aspect which often amounts to bitter, shocking moments of trivial details. This is clearly observed in most of the scenes that deal with women’s body.

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21 of 21 pages


Is Mohamed Choukri's "For Bread Alone" a Picaresque Narrative?
Mohammed V University at Agdal  (Faculty of Letters and Humanities)
End-of-studies Project
A: 16/20
Catalog Number
ISBN (Book)
File size
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Picaresque Narrative Mohamed Choukri African Literature, Moroccan Literature in Translation
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Driss Faddouli (Author), 2009, Is Mohamed Choukri's "For Bread Alone" a Picaresque Narrative?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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Title: Is Mohamed Choukri's "For Bread Alone" a Picaresque Narrative?

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