Khatibi, Abdelkébir 1938-

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Khatibi, Abdelkébir 1938-


Born 1938, in El Jadida, Morocco. Education: Sorbonne, Ph.D., 1965.


Agent—c/o Author Mail, Editions Le Serpent a Plumes, 20 rue des Petits Champs, 75002 Paris, France.


Writer, educator, and critic. Institut de Sociologie, Rabat, Morocco, staff member, 1966-70; Institute of Scientific Research, Rabat, former research professor; Mohammed V University, Rabat, currently professor.


La Mort des artistes (play; title means, "The Death of the Artists"), 1964.

Etudes sociologiques sur le Maroc, Société d'études économiques (Rabat, Morocco), 1966, new edition, Bulletin économique et social du Maroc (Rabat-Chellah, Morocco), 1978.

Le Roman maghrébin (title means "The Moroccan Novel"), F. Maspero (Paris, France), 1968, 2nd edition, Société Marocaine des Editeurs Réunis (Rabat, Morocco), 1979.

Bilan de la sociologie au Maroc, [Rabat, Morocco], 1968.

La mémoire tatouée: autobiographie d'un décolonisé (title means "The Tattooed Memory"), Les Lettres nouvelles (Paris, France), 1971.

Vomito blanco: le sionisme et la conscience malheureuse, Union générale d'éditions (Paris, France), 1974.

La blessure du nom propre (title means "The Wound of the Proper Name"), Les Lettres nouvelles (Paris, France), 1974.

(With Mohammed Kably and Mohammed Benjelloun Touimi) Ecrivains marocains du Protectorat à 1965, Sindbad (Paris, France), 1974.

(With Mohamed Sijelmassi) The Splendor of Islamic Calligraphy, Thames & Hudson (London, England), 1976, published as L'Art calligraphice arabe, Chêne (Paris, France), 1976, revised and expanded edition, 1996.

Le lutteur de classe à la manière taoïste, Sindbad (Paris, France), 1976.

(With others) Le peinture de Ahmed Cherkaoui, Shoof (Casablanca, Morocco), 1976.

Le livre du sang (title means "The Book of Blood"), Gallimard (Paris, France), 1979.

Le prophète voilé: théâtre (play; title means "The Veiled Prophet"), L'Harmattan (Paris, France), 1979.

Al-Naqdu al-muzdawij, Dar al-'awdah (Beirut, Lebanon), 1980.

De la mille et troisième nuit, Editions Marocaines et Internationales (Tangiers, Morocco), 1980.

Al-Ism al-'Aribi al-jarih, Dar al-'awdah (Beirut, Lebanon), 1980.

(With Mohamed Sijelmassi) Diwan al-Khatt al-'Arabi, Dar al-'awdah (Beirut, Lebanon), 1980.

(With Muhammad Baradah) Fi al-kitabah wa-altajribah, Dar al-'awdah (Beirut, Lebanon), 1980.

(With Mikki Bentahar) The State of the Social Sciences in Morocco, [Egypt], 1982.

Amour bilingue, Fata Morgana (Montpellier, France), 1983, translated as Love in Two Languages, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1990.

Maghreb pluriel, Denoël (Paris, France), 1983.

(With Jacques Hassoun) Le même livre, Editions de l'Eclat (Paris, France), 1985.

Dédicace á l'année qui vient (title means "a Dedication for the Coming Year"), Fata Morgana (Paris, France), 1986.

Figures de l'étranger dans la littérature française, Denoël (Paris, France), 1987.

Ombres japonaises; précédé de, Nuits blanches (title means "Japanese Shadow Play"), Fata Morgana (Montpellier, France), 1988.

Par-dessus l'épaule (title means "Over One's Shoulder"), Aubier (Paris, France), 1988.

(With Mohamed Sijelmassi and Brahim Alaoui) L'art contemprain au Maroc, ACR (Courbevoie, France), 1989.

(With Daoud Aoulad-Syad) Morocains, Belvisi (Agadir, Morocco), 1989.

Un été à Stockholm (title means "A Summer in Stockholm"), Flammarion (Paris, France), 1990.

(With Francoise Cheng and Ahmed El Kohen Lamrhili) Abdelkébir Khatibi, Al Asas-Okad (Rabat, Morocco), 1990.

Paradoxes du sionisme, Al Kalam (Rabat, Morocco), 1990.

(With others) Significance et interculturalité, Editions Okad (Rabat, Morocco), 1992.

Triptyque de Rabat, N. Blandin (Paris, France), 1993.

Penser le Maghreb, Société marocaine des éditeurs réunis (Rabat, Morocco), 1993.

(With Ali Almahan) From Sign to Image; The Moroccan Carpet, Lak International (Casablanca, Morocco), 1995, published as Du signe à l'image: le tapis marocain, Lak International, 1995.

L'interculturel: réflexion pluridisciplinaire, L'Harmattan (Paris, France), 1995.

Le livre del'aimance: proses artistiques, Editions Marsam (Rabat, Morocco), 1995.

(With Mohamed Sijelmassi and El-Houssain El-Moujahid) Civilisation marocaine: arts et culture, Editions Oum (Paris, France), 1996.

(With others) Ummah fi al-manfá, Dar al-Funan (Amman, Jordan), 1997.

L'Oeuvre de Abdelkébir Khatibi, Marsam (Rabat, Morocco), 1997.

L'alternance et les partis politiques, Eddif (Casablanca, Morocco), 1998.

La langue de l'autre, Le Mains Secrètes (New York, NY), 1999.

(With Abdelkebir Rabi) Voeu de silence, Al Manaer (Neuilly sur-Seine, France), 2000.

L'art contemporain arabe: prolégomènes, Al Manaer (Neuilly sur-Seine, France), 2001.

Colonialisme et nationalisme: arguments, Editions Okad (Rabat, Morocco), 2001.

Le corps oriental, Hazan (Paris, France), 2002.

Pélerinage d'un artiste amoureux (novel), Rocher (Monaco), 2003.

Féerie d'un mutant: récit, Serpent à plumes (Monaco), 2005.


Abdelkébir Khatibi writes French-language books from his homeland of Morocco. Even though he is an acclaimed novelist and essayist, the author's works "defy easy classification by genre," according to a contributor to the Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century. The essayist explained that even the well-known novels La mémoire tatouée: autobiographie d'un décolonisé and Un été à Stockholm "do not have the tight structural integrity we associate with the conventional novel. His works labeled ‘novels’ often seem to be essays, and his essays included highly poetic, oneiric, or anecdotal passages."

Khatibi's penchant for writing in French stems from his early education at a Marrakech boarding school, where he studied French literature and culture; the young man later earned his doctorate at the Sorbonne in Paris. Though trained in sociology, Khatibi turned to fiction for his first publication, the novel La memoire tatouée, a postmodern work that helped herald a new approach to Moroccan writing, according to the Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century essayist. Lucy Stone McNeece, writing for Yale French Studies, called La memoire tatouée "part autobiographical narrative, part parable, part poem, part dialogue, and part commentary." Even in its French vocabulary, the book is "permeated by cadences and expressions from both the Koran and Khatibi's native dialect," McNeece continued. As the book's narrator, a North African, studies French culture and ideology, "his native language and culture seem to recede," McNeece related. "He moves further away from his past as the demands of acculturation increase. Yet while his exile involves an eradication of cognitive data, it begins to liberate affective material and sensory associations."

Well known in his country as a sociologist, Khatibi is just as well recognized abroad for his experimental fiction. His English-language debut, Love in Two Languages, tells of a cross-cultural, bilingual romance between a French woman and a North African man. "Similar to a calligraphy, their love, their reactions to language, and their bilingualism are embedded in the text," noted J.D. Gauthier in World Literature Today. Gauthier's acknowledgement that Love in Two Languages is "a difficult book to read" spoke to some other critical reactions to the novel. "Difficult" was also the word used by Choice contributor H. Harter, though the reviewer added that the novel's "highly lyrical language [is] its own justification." Less impressed was a Publishers Weekly contributor who complained of the author's "fatal fondness" for the rhetorical question and faulted Khatibi for providing "no plot and no drama."

Characteristic of the author's style, Khatibi's La livre du sang "is not really a novel in the traditional sense," commented Eric Sellin in a World Literature Today assessment. Sellin characterized this work as "a brilliant texte, a highly-charged group of interrelated prose poems … which feature several mythic and vaguely real persons who may or may not represent multiple facets of one psyche." The book's narrator invokes Orpheus, the founder of the legendary mysteries that bear his name, but the text reflects the diversity of its author's background. To that end, French Review contributor John Erickson suggested that the "ideal reader" for this "remarkable and absorbing" novel is one who, like Khatibi, is "a Moslem possessed of a mind in sync with Islamic thought and tradition, of knowledge of recondite theories of Orphic and Pythagorean thought, and of a North African writer's skilled mastery of the French tongue." Any reader who doesn't fit that profile, suggested Erickson, "will at best be mystified."

The nonfiction book La langue de l'autre caught the attention of World Literature Today contributor Jama En-nehas, who described it as Khatibi's attempt "to forge a poetics of the self." This volume explores the author's journeys in time and space and often focuses on his challenge as a bilingual, bicultural writer. "He talks about the problematic of language in political terms," noted En-nehas. For the author, the French language is a symbol of the French colonial legacy in Morocco. En-nehas noted: "Like many North African francophone writers, Khatibi finds himself trapped in this language imbroglio, with all its repercussions on culture and identity." Noting that the book contains a wide range of writings, Research in African Literatures contributor Ronnie Scharfman wrote that the book "should interest both veteran readers of this Moroccan writer and those as yet unfamiliar with his diverse oeuvre."

Khatibi is also the author, with Mohamed Sijelmassi, of The Splendor of Islamic Calligraphy, which provides a survey of calligraphy from its origins to its modern-day uses. Chapters focus on topics such as the use of calligraphy in architecture and painting. The authors also delve into the principles of calligraphy and provide an overview of the many kinds of calligraphy. The book includes numerous examples of various scripts via reproductions of manuscripts, Islamic paintings, and other artworks. Dana De Zoysa, writing on the Curled Up with a Good Book Web site, commented: "As this book so beautifully illustrates, Islamic calligraphy is also a chant, a melody, an aria, a toccata, an edification, an exaltation. This book shows just how ignorant is the belief that Muslim culture is rigid, monolithic, and anachronistic." Zoysa went on to observe that The Splendor of Islamic Calligraphy is a "splendid place to start" when learning about the use of calligraphy within the realm of Islam.



Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century, 3rd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.


Bloomsbury Review, March, 1997, review of The Splendor of Islamic Calligraphy, p. 22.

Choice, October, 1977, review of The Splendor of Islamic Calligraphy, p. 1035; November, 1990, H. Harter, review of Love in Two Languages, pp. 493-494.

French Review, April, 1981, John Erickson, review of Le livre du sang, p. 765.

Publishers Weekly, December 22, 1989, review of Love in Two Languages, p. 53.

Research in African Literatures, spring, 1992, James McGuire, "Forked Tongues, Marginal Bodies," p. 107; summer, 1992, Abdallah Mdarhri-Alaoui, "Abdelkebir Khatibi: Writing a Dynamic Identity," pp. 167-176; spring, 2002, Ronnie Scharfman, review of La langue de l'autre, p. 192.

Sub-Stance, spring, 1994, Thomas O. Beebee, "The Fiction of Translation: Abdelkebir Khatibi's Love in Two Languages."

World Literature Today, winter, 1981, Eric Sellin, review of Le livre du sang, pp. 165-166; autumn, 1990, J.D. Gauther, review of Love in Two Languages, p. 686; autumn, 1994, J.D. Gauthier, review of Triptyque de Rabat, p. 866; autumn, 2000, Jama En-nehas, review of La langue de l'autre, p. 794.

Yale French Studies, June 1993, Lucy Stone McNeece, "Decolonizing the Sign: Language and Identity in Abdelkebir Khatibi's Le memoire tatouée," pp. 12-29.


Curled Up with a Good Book, (September 25, 2006), Dana De Zoysa, review of The Splendor of Islamic Calligraphy.

International Journal of Francophone Studies Online, (September 25, 2006), Valerie Orlando, "Defining a New North African Identity: Abdelkebir Khatibi's Amour Bilingue."

IslamiCity, (September 25, 2006), overview of The Splendor of Islamic Calligraphy.

January Magazine, (August 16, 2002), Dana De Zoysa, "Splendor in the Line."

University of Massachusetts Web site, (September 25, 2006), information on Abdelkébir Khatibi's works.