What Moroccans have read during the quarantine

Digital books read included the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Anton Chekhov, Edgar Allan Poe, Jalaluddin Rumi and Mahmoud Darwish.
Monday 22/06/2020
A customer browses books at a bookshop in the Moroccan capital Rabat. (AFP)
A customer browses books at a bookshop in the Moroccan capital Rabat. (AFP)

RABAT- What did the Moroccans read during the confinement period imposed because of the pandemic? We asked 100 intellectuals in the country, which was under strict lockdown since March 20. Writers, researchers, critics, novelists, poets, painters, singers and actors read new books, while others took the opportunity to re-visit old masterpieces.

The 100 Moroccans we interviewed read 325 books, an average of 3.25 books per reader. One-third of them preferred to read novels (29.53%).

Literary critiques came in second, with a total of 54 books (16.61%). 33.33%of these books deal with poetry, compared to four books critiquing theatre, 3 focusing on cinema, two on art and two related to novels.

Poetry came in third, with a total of 45 books.

Intellectual works came in fourth, with a total of 38 books (11.69%), with only two books tackling Islamic topics and two political issues.

8.61% of the books read by Moroccans were history books, followed by 5 in travel literature and 5 in the literature of correspondence (1.53%). Finally, 9 books were cultural (2.76%).

91.09% of those we interviewed read in Arabic, while 6.15% read books in French, such as works by researchers Fouzia Labiad and Fatima Al-Zahra Al-Saghir about theatre critique. 2.15% of Moroccans read books in Spanish. English literature caught the attention of 0.61% of Moroccans, such as poet Adel Lutfi.

People look at newspapers and books at a stall near the Medina of Rabat, Morocco. (AP)
People look at newspapers and books at a stall near the Medina of Rabat, Morocco. (AP)

Moroccans also read many translated works (29.53 percent), meaning that for every 3 books read, one is a translation in their preferred language.

The survey showed that those who re-read books are generally "specialised" readers or academic researchers, who return to some books to write about them, or to use in their studies and research. The group of readers who are devoted to what we might call "specialised reading" only read books related to the field of their studies, such as historian Abd al-Salam al-Jaamati and researchers Mustafa Al-Maroun, and Mohammad Reza Boudchar.

In the field of literary studies, we find some specialised readers as well, such as Muhammad Saeed Al-Baqali, and his devotion to epistolary literature. This is different from other readers who left their fields and went on to try other genres, as is the case with science-trained Nadia Al-Nair and Jawad Al-Diouri.

91.62% of Moroccan readers remain loyal to traditional print books, as the total digital books read did not exceed 27 (8.30%), some of which were available on YouTube. These books appealed to poet Ahmed Al-Huraishi, and artist Saeed Al- Shukeiri.

Moroccan artist Ahmed Jared chose to read Persian philosopher Suhrawardi’s books online. Moroccan researcher Adel Al-Anaz also chose to read PDF novels, the same as many students who resort to digital books due to their lower cost or to the fact that print books are not always available in libraries.

However, most of those who participated in this survey and rely on digital books confirm that it is harder to focus on the screen for hours. This pushes them to read books that that do not require time consuming attention.

Digital books read by Moroccan  respondents included the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Anton Chekhov, Edgar Allan Poe, Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Milan Kundera, Al-Mutanabbi, Jalaluddin Rumi and Mahmoud Darwish.