Madini, Ahmad al- (1948–)

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Madini, Ahmad al-

Moroccan novelist, short-story writer, and literary critic, Ahmad al-Madini ushered in a new epoch of Moroccan Arabic literature by introducing a new tradition of writing and literary criticism at the end of the 1970s. Al-Madini is a member of the modern school of Arabic literature that prefers experimentation to the prioritization of a writer's faithfulness to traditional literary patterns and reluctance to challenge the classical realist text. His contribution consists of his emphasis on a new literary discourse that called for the creative practice of the novelist. Throughout his writings and literary criticisms, al-Madini advocated a divorce from the simplistic and naive understanding of realism in Moroccan Arabic literature. He supported a new literary practice that parts from the shallow understanding of the theory of reflection, the concept of mimesis, and the notion of realism. Al-Madini also abandoned classical interpretations of linear plots and character development in favor of monologues and a mixture of poetic and prose styles. Overall, al-Madini launched a spirit of literary rebellion similar to Driss Chraibi in French Moroccan literature.


Al-Madini was born in 1948 in Casablanca, Morocco, and he pursued his primary and secondary education there. He was influenced by Marxist ideas that prevailed among students in the Moroccan university. After independence, university students played a major role in the national political debate. Al-Madini was largely influenced by this political culture that was dominated by Marxist ideologies. In 1968, al-Madini earned his bachelor's degree in Arabic language and literature from the University of Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah in Fez. He wrote his thesis on the art of the short story in Morocco under the supervision of Mohammed Serghini. In 1978, he earned his postgraduate diploma in Arabic literature from Muhammad V University. He finished his educational training by attending the Sorbonne in France, where he defended his doctorate on the realist vision in the Moroccan contemporary novel in 1990. After finishing his higher education, al-Madini worked as a lecturer at the Sorbonne before he joined the University of Paris-VIII, and later University of Muhammad V in Rabat as an assistant professor.

Al-Madini's literary career started as a writer for the Moroccan publication al-Alam (The banner), the voice of the Istiqlal Party. In the political division within the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), he contributed to al-Muharrir, which was directed by Omar Benjelloun; later he wrote for al-Ittihad al-Ishtiraki. Al-Madini is one of the most prolific writers and members of the Union of Moroccan Writers (UEM). His literary works include short stories, novels, and works on literary criticism and theory. His works include al-Unfu fi'l-Dimagh (short stories, 1971), Zamanun bayna al-Wilada wa'al-Hulm (novel, 1976), Fann al-Qissa al-Qasira fi'l-Maghrib (literary criticism, 1980), al-Tariq ila al-Manafî (short stories, 1988), Hikayat Wahm (novel, 1993), Madinat Baraqish (novel, 1998), and Fas law Adat Ilayhi (novel, 2003). Al-Madini is still an active member at the Faculty of Letters, Muhammad V University in Rabat. He is also politically affiliated with the USFP.


Name: Ahmad al-Madini

Birth: 1948, Casablanca, Morocco

Nationality: Moroccan

Education: B.A. (Arabic language and literature), University of Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah, 1986; post-graduate diploma, Muhammad University, 1978; Ph.D., Sorbonne, Paris, 1990


  • 1971: al-Unfu fi'l-Dimagh (short stories)
  • 1976: Zamanun bayna al-Wilada wa'l-Hulm (novel)
  • 1980: Fann al-Qissa al-Qasira fi'l-Maghrib (literary criticism)
  • 1988: al-Tariq ila al-Manafî (short stories)
  • 1993: Hikayat Wahm (novel)
  • 1998: Madinat Baraqish (novel)
  • 2003: Fas law Adat Ilayhi (novel)


Born in Ben Ahmed, Morocco, El Miloudi Chaghmoum (1947–) is a professor in the Faculty of Letters, University of Moulay Ismail in Meknes. He earned his doctorate in philosophy from the Faculty of Letters and Humanities in Rabat. A member of the Union of Moroccan Writers, Chaghmoum published his first collection of short stories titled Ashya Tataharak in 1972. Similar to al-Madini, he challenged the literary tradition of the early Moroccan writers and called for leaving the conventions of the classical period, especially in terms of the role for narration. His novels and short stories are modernist in terms of their narrative discourse and storyline. Chaghmoum introduced a multiplicity of narrative levels in his fiction. In his novel Ayn al-Faras, the narrative consists of diegetic, extradiegetic, and metadiegetic levels. These narrative transgressions defy the logical expectation of the traditional reader. His characters rebel against the unitary voice of the Godlike narrator and break away from the conventional rule of the novel of the 1960s. Chaghmoum calls for a new literary vision that transcends reality and frees the characters from the daily shackles of realism in order to be able to innovate and create new imaginary and futuristic worlds. His fictional world searches for a new image of Moroccan characters. His main works include al-Dhal'u wa al-Jazira (1980), Safar al-Ta'a (1981), al-Ablah wa'l-Mansiyyat wa Yasmin (1982), Ayn al-Faras (1988), Masalik al-Zaytun (1990), Shajar al-khallata (1995), Khamil al-Madaji (1995), Nisa ali al-Rindi (2000), and al-Anaqa (2001).


Unlike French Moroccan literature, Arabic literature in Morocco has been directly influenced by the literary tradition of the Mashriq (eastern Arab world) and Egypt. The development of Arabic literature witnessed dramatic changes in terms of the thematic and technical aspects of the literary text. These periodical transformations are the outcome of the writers' direct responses to the political and social realities of Morocco. Therefore, three periods of literary production in Morocco can be distinguished. The early period was characterized by a naïve understanding of artistic production where the literary world was built around the worldview of the narrator. These works tended to be autobiographical, such as Abd al-Majid Ben Jalloun's Fi'l-Tufula (1957). The second period started in the early 1970s and produced only a wave of literary criticisms, characterized by a Marxist perspective. The third period began at the end of the 1970s and saw a drastic change at the level of the writer's understanding of modern and new techniques of literary writing. Among the key figures of this period is al-Madini, whose contribution was reflected both at the level of literary production and critical theorization of the novel and the short story in the Morocco.

Al-Madini argued that the short story was late to reach the Arab Maghreb (western Arab world, that is, North Africa) because of the socioeconomic condition of Morocco during the colonial period. He contended that the Moroccan short story did not emerge until the 1940s, and that it was influenced by the Egyptian short story, which set a model of literary and critical writing in the Arab world. Equally important, al-Madini believed that the traditionalist Islamic salafiyya movement limited any artistic expression by encouraging respect for Islamic education and a strong adherence to traditional cultural heritage instead of celebrating new forms of expression that transcend the quotidian. Therefore, instead of using classical artistic expressions to describe existing patriarchal traditions norms as Ben Jalloun (1919–1981) did, al-Madini sought a new stylistic approach to the Moroccan novel, and inaugurated a phase of experimentation in the postcolonial literary tradition. Beginning in the 1970s, literary experimentation began with al-Madini (Zamanun bayna al-Wilada wa'l-Hulm, 1976), abdallah laroui (al-Ghurba, 1971; al-Yatim, 1978), Mohammad Azzedine Tazi (Abraj al-Madina, 1978), and Said Allouch (Hajiz al-Thalj, 1974). In these narrative works, there was an overlapping of time and narrators, which was absent in the early works. The polyphonic nature of the narrative was also characterized by the limitation of descriptive scenes. This new period reached maturation during the 1990s.

Al-Madini's contribution to Moroccan Arabic literature should also be seen within the context of his interest in literary criticism as the guiding principle for scientific literary production. Al-Madini argued that the new Moroccan literary text should move beyond Gustave Flaubert's concept of the absolute power of the narrator and deconstruct the chronological nature of the plot. This revolt against classical artistic techniques and patterns was triggered by the political, social, economic, and cultural transformations in the Arab world, especially after the Arab armies were defeated in the 1967 War. The new French novelists such as Claude Simon, Michel Butor, and Alain Robbe-Grillet influenced al-Madini. The monologue novel of James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Franz Kafka, and Marcel Proust also influenced his writing techniques. Finally, Arab novelists such as Haidar Haidar, Ghalib Halsa, Ghassan Kanafani, and Abdul-Rahman Mounif also molded the modern novel in Morocco. Accordingly, al-Madini argued, life is too complex to be seen from the perspective of a single narrative eye.

The political failures of the progressive forces (leftist Marxist-Leninist) and the beginning of a new political era in modern Morocco ushered in by the Green March of 1975, when Morocco laid claim to the region of Western Sahara, initiated the beginning of experimentation in the writings of al-Madini. In 1967, he wrote Zamanun bayna al-Wilada wa'l-Hulm where he shook the rules of traditional writings. In fact, al-Madini argued that his purpose was to write about reality, but without writing a realist narrative. The Moroccan reality of his novels and short stories is a context where political and ideological themes are discussed without the dominance of a sole hero in the narrative. In Madinat Baraqish (1998), al-Madini revisited the political events of the 1960s from a polyphonic perspective where a variety of voices merge to counter the official silence.


Al-Madini is celebrated for his groundbreaking literary novels and his ability to theorize new styles of artistic forms by critiquing schools of literary production in postindependence Morocco. His literary experimentation has been positively viewed for its perceptive use modern European styles of writing without falling into blind imitation of the European modern novel.


I want to write about reality, but without writing a realist narrative. Al-Madini Ahmad. Madinat Baraqish. Mashurat al-Rabita, 1998.


Many critics argued that the movement from the classical to the modernist stylistic techniques in the Moroccan novel and short story was unnatural compared to Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. They contended that the Moroccan reader was not prepared for this abrupt shift given its meager knowledge of literary forms of writing. Therefore, the common belief was that the new novel in Morocco was nothing but a fabricated literary fashion that did not emerge as a reaction to the social transformations of Moroccan society.

Al-Madini rejected this critical viewpoint of the conditions that led to the rise of the modern novel in the late 1970s. He believed that this movement is a native literary experience that reacted to the political failures of the national political parties and leaders. Al-Madini claimed that any blind literary representation of the national past heritage without questioning its limitation and problems would reproduce this reality and maintain it. The role of the writer is to create new literary worldviews and picture alternative solutions. In light of this, al-Madini saw literary works as artistic forms of social and political change. He went to the extent of criticizing the works of Ben Salem Himmich as historical novels that encouraged the reproduction of historical periods of failure and cultural heritage. Al-Madini wanted to break all connections with the past and redirect literary toward modern perspectives.


Genette, Gérard. Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method, translated by Jane E. Lewin. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1983.

Jay, Salim. Dictionnaire des écrivains marocains. Paris: Eddif, 2005.

                                                  Aomar Boum

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Madini, Ahmad al- (1948–)

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