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Biography of Abou EL KACEM CHEBBI

Tunisia > Literature : Abou EL KACEM CHEBBI

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Born on 24/02/1909 (format : day/month/year)

Biography :

Abou El Kacem Chebbi or Abou El Kacem Echebbi  ( b. February 24 ,1909 - October 9, 1934), was considered to be one of the greatest poets in Tunisia. Poet of freedom, whilst living Chebbi called for a revolt against the forces of Inertia and a rebellion against the warmongering without motivation by an occupier without faith, he is considered as one of the best arab poets of modern times.
With the simplicity of his verbs, he brought new breath to the poetry of his time and its freshness remains unequaled to this day.

Chebbi,  who we call an arab poet, is Rimbaud or the Tunisian Hugo, crazy with love for his people, adoring and yet critical of their situation.
Abou-al-Kacem echebbi was born in Tozeur in 1909, he studied classics at the University of Ezzitouna. He was very interested in modern literary as well as classical arab literature.
His poetical talent was confirmed at an early age and his themes varied from a description of nature to patritiotic stories were numerous. His poems can be found in the most well known reviews be they Tunisian or oriental.
Al-Chabbi died in est 1934 at the age of 25 from heart problems.

A modern poet, he was a romantic rebel. He was, like the nature he wrote about, sometimes soft and gentle and at other moments unchained and a rebel.
Often, he called his fellow countrymen to let themselves free from the grip of their jailors and become the saints of their liberty. His best known poem illustrates this.


“If, one day, a people desires to live, then fate will answer their call.

And their night will then begin to fade, and their chains break and fall.

For he who is not embraced by a passion for life will dissipate into thin air,

At least that is what all creation has told me, and what its hidden spirits declare…”

Translated by Elliott Colla.

The Will of Life

If the people will to live
Providence is destined to favourably respond
And night is destined to fold
And the chains are certain to be broken

And he who has not embraced the love of life
Will evaporate in its atmosphere and disappear.

Translated by As’ad Abu Khalil.

The Tyrants of the People - Ela Toghat Al Alaam


Hey you, the unfair tyrants...
You the lovers of the darkness...
You the enemies of life...
You've made fun of innocent people's wounds; and your palm covered with their blood
You kept walking while you were deforming the charm of existence and growing seeds of sadness in their land

Wait, don't let the spring, the clearness of the sky and the shine of the morning light fool you...
Because the darkness, the thunder rumble and the blowing of the wind are coming toward you from the horizon
Beware because there is a fire underneath the ash

Who grows thorns will reap wounds
You've taken off heads of people and the flowers of hope; and watered the cure of the sand with blood and tears until it was drunk
The blood's river will sweep you away and you will be burned by the fiery storm.

Anonymous translation


He wrote a total of 132 poems and published articles in various reviews. However he did not manage, despite many attempts, to get his Diwan published, a collection of poems which he had selected and which was not published until 1955 (20 years after his death) after a literary critic from Egypt, Omar Faroukh, had put the spotlight onto his poet genius and talent. The recognition of the talent of Chebbi, although late, has nevertheless made its mark with the incorporation of two verses of his famous poem  "La volonté de vivre", were incorporated into the Tunisian National Anthem Humat Al-Hima,
« Lorsqu'un peuple veut la vie, force est au destin de répondre. »

Rêves de ma jeunesse
Abou el kacem Chebbi

N’ont-ils pas, de naissance,
Une santé chétive et faible
Les rêves des jeunes hommes
Brisés comme des branches
Par les malheurs incessants
Qui tombent ainsi que la grêle ?
J’ai demandé aux ténèbres
Où avaient disparu
Les rêves de ma jeunesse
Elles m’ont répondu :
Les vents obliques les ont chassés
Les dispersant en tous sens.
Et lorsque j’ai demandé aux vents où donc ils les
Avaient emportés, ils répliquèrent :
Le torrent du destin les ont engloutis
A tout jamais
Dans les flots noirs du malheur.
Ils sont devenus poussière, fumée, néant
Tel le grain broyé dessous la meule,
Envolés sur les rivages de fièvre,
Proie des flots noirs
Où la vague affreuse, crie.


Last update : 02/18/2011

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