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date: 06 December 2023

Arabic and the Postfrancophone Poetics of Maghrebi Literaturefree

Arabic and the Postfrancophone Poetics of Maghrebi Literaturefree

  • yasser elhariryyasser elhariryDartmouth College


As a discipline, francophone postcolonial studies defaults to several familiar tropes. In the Maghrebi context, one of them involves substituting historical events for literary ones. History has long offered the primary organizational rubric for many forays into the field, whose long and ongoing colonial struggles remain unresolved on either side of the Mediterranean littoral. A common battleground of the region’s postcolonial aesthetic and sociological configurations revolves around the choice of language: Should the postcolonized continue to write in the colonizer’s language? A postfrancophone poetics disrupts much of this terrain. It gestures toward one way out of the postcolonial lingual deadlock by eschewing the historical event as structuring principle and offering literary rather than historical markers—a constellation of references that isolates the fundamental plasticity of the french language and mollifies it with translation and intertextuality. Beneath the surface tension of francophone Maghrebi literature’s invariably french-language appearance, the modernism of french poetics and the deep historical intertext of Islamic scripture and classical Arabic lyric freely, incessantly weave in and out of one another. A postfrancophone poetics ciphers historicity, ever on display for the curious reader.


  • West Asian Literatures, including Middle East
  • 20th and 21st Century (1900-present)
  • Literary Theory

Be, or, Prolegomena on Origins

My earliest memory, beneath Riyadh’s dusty suns. I wake up to the acute awareness of my family’s immovable techno-Muslim identity. Primary school curricula spent on Islamic studies and programming Sakhr computers. Annual family holidays synchronized to the Hijri calendar and desert crossings in Chrysler New Yorkers beelining to Mecca. Flocked by fluorescent green parrots our small sand-hued house features an ailing lawn lined with date palm and holy basil, yellowed grass inexplicably overrun by goatheads. Over years, gardeners peddle the remedy, gallons of irreal water fresh from fossil fuel–powered desalination plants, hauled in by truck, dumped onto the caltrops of the turf, perennially off-limits. Armed with bucket and broom my father captures the parrot with the russet beak and broken wing in salvation from bony strays. The simurgh convalesces to the question mark I curl at māmā about where we and god come from. She tries her best. Dutiful. I, unsatisfied, insist. She blows a fuse. Wa-ʾin qāla li-shayʾan kun fa-yakūn! The noise. She transgresses the grammar. I want to say she sharp-nods her head down for compensatory effect as she sounds the closing n. She stretches the long wāw, ū in yakūn, for closure, melty string of marshmallow.

Literature’s greatest mystery lies in its beginning, “repliée sur l’énigme de sa naissance” [folded back upon the enigma of its own origin].1 Go as far back as we may, the trail always goes cold. We find ourselves with nothing. In face of the void, creatio ex nihilo. Arabic literature erupts with “Homeric suddenness,” certainly “in the sense that [. . .] a point is reached when not all compositions are lost.”2 Long before that point, “in the beginning,” goes John, “was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God [. . .] All things came into being through him.”3 The Arabic literary tradition and the Qurʾān, too, offer no shortage of origin words. My mother’s fiery riff on kun fa-yakūn [be, and it is] is one of them. The expression recurs no less than eight times in the Qurʾān. Like John’s beginning—“the Word,” unfurled by god (“the Word was with God”), or at least within reach of god’s hand, or on the tip of a godly tongue, “lips moistened as though about to part / Releasing speech”—“le langage,” writes Michel Foucault, “naissait lorsque le bruit de la bouche ou des lèvres était devenu lettre” [language arose when the noise produced by the mouth or the lips had become a letter].4 In Michel Serres’s words,

le bruit ne peut être un phénomène, tout phénomène se détache de lui, figure sur fond, comme un feu sur la brume, comme tout message, tout cri, tout appel, tout signal, doivent se détacher du vacarme occupant le silence, pour être, pour être perçus, pour être connus, pour être échangés. Dès qu’un phénomène se manifeste, il quitte le bruit [. . .] il traverse [. . .] canaux construits ou langues [noise cannot be a phenomenon; every phenomenon is separated from it, like a silhouette on a backdrop, like a beacon against the fog, as every message, every cry, every call, every signal must be separated from the hubbub that occupies silence, in order to be, to be perceived, to be known, to be exchanged. As soon as a phenomenon appears, it leaves the noise [. . .] it moves through [. . .] constructed channels or languages].5

As with the first word of the world (“the Word was God”), whence all things “came into being,” the Qurʾān, in the following verses, attributes the genesis and origination of lingual movement to nothing more than god’s will and decree, tongue and constructed channel. It then deploys the expression كُن فَيَكُون‎ (kun fa-yakūn) to engage the question of the immaculate conception. And in a final twist, where the beginning is the end and the end the beginning, it departs from John’s cosmogenic account by implicating the suddenness of being-in-the-world with the apocalypse, the resurrection, termination, judgment day, the Day of the Trumpet.

He is the Originator of the heavens and the earth, and when He decrees something, He says only, “Be,” and it is. (2:117)6

She said, “My Lord, how can I have a son when no man has touched me?” [The angel] said, “This is how God creates what He will: when He has ordained something, He only says, ‘Be,’ and it is.” [. . .] In God’s eyes Jesus is just like Adam: He created him from dust, said to him, “Be,” and he was. (3:47, 59)7

It is He who created the heavens and the earth for a true purpose. On the Day when he says, “Be,” it will be: His word is the truth. All control on the Day the Trumpet is blown belongs to Him. He knows the seen and the unseen: He is the All Wise, the All Aware. (6:73)8

When We will something to happen, all that We say is, “Be,” and it is. (16:40)9

It would not befit God to have a child. He is far above that: when He decrees something, He says only, “Be,” and it is. (19:35)10

Can man not see that We created him from a drop of fluid? Yet—lo and behold!—he disputes openly, producing arguments against Us, forgetting his own creation. He says, “Who can give life back to bones after they have decayed?” Say, “He who created them in the first place will give them life again [. . .] when He wills something to be, His way is to say, ‘Be’—and it is!” (36:77–79, 82)11

It is He who gives life and death, and when He ordains a thing, He says only “Be” and it is. (40:68)12

OK, now, stop, you wonder, isn’t this essay supposed to be about Maghrebi literature? I hear you. Now hear me out. In the North African context, where the mid-20th century’s era of decolonizations was swiftly followed by heated debates on هوية‎ (huwīyah [identity]) and bloody civil wars and oppressive political regimes, Maghrebi authors writing in the former colonizer’s language grafted literary french with the rich verbal ranges of classical and Qurʾānic Arabic. At their disposal, a remarkable lingual expanse suddenly was.13

Not Nothing, or, Postfrancophone Poetics and the Language Question in the Maghreb

I dub this lingual grafting a postfrancophone poetics, undergirded by a fundamental belief in language’s transnationalism (no one, no one nation-state, owns a language) and elasticity (any language can invade, or be hospitable to, inflected by, any other language).14 My mother’s kun fa-yakūn—I would only come to recognize, and understand, later, much later, over years of exilic wandering among the inhabitants of Western lands—is just one of the Qurʾān’s many cosmogonic leitmotifs and lingual tics. As the Tunisian writer Abdelwahab Meddeb once wrote of Qiṣṣat al-ghurbah al-gharbīyah [The Story of Western Exile] by Shihāb al-Dīn Yaḥyá al-Suhrawardī (Sohrevard, 1154–executed Aleppo, 1191), certain texts, specific expressions, nonidiomatic calques of untranslatable turns of phrase, for the francoarab, “demeure[nt] une inépuisable quête visionnaire, apte à s’adapter à toutes les interprétations” [perdure as inexhaustible visionary quests, adapt with ease to all manner of interpretation].15 Cutting-edge scholarship has shown how the Qurʾān and mystical poems like Qiṣṣat al-ghurbah al-gharbīyah together weave an extensive lingual fabric, forming “a kind of Islamic urtext.”16 For the francoarab writer, the Qurʾān and mystical poems exist in a constant state of unfinished becoming, still being written. As for the francoarab reader, the Moroccan thinker Abdelfattah Kilito describes how, in a readerly continuum that goes from the monolingual Arabic reader to the monolingual french reader by way of the bilingual francoarab reader, the third—the ideal reader of the francoarabic text—is attuned to more than cultural, translational, and lingual nuance invisible to the other two.17 For such a reader, the script of the Latin alphabet would be transformed into calligraphic pictograms that always allude to Arabic. The mysterious unnamed urtexts would be the classical poems and odes of Arabia or the sayings of the great mystics. The indispensable intertextual book would be the Qurʾān.

Like much postcolonial cultural production, modern Maghrebi literature, borne of the protracted violence of the colonial encounter, has long been haunted by the specter of the language question. While I focus in this entry on one Algerian novel in particular, I fan out into comparisons with similar experiments by other Maghrebi writers. I center the Algerian context, whose colonial “wound was deeper and more painful than that of its North African neighbors, Morocco to the west and Tunisia to the east,” where “the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have brought the most violent forms of unrest,” where writers “have been the most prolific and vocal both in speaking out and in questioning the role of their work in responding to the political troubles of their time.”18 Though politically divergent from the Maghreb, Algeria converges aesthetically with it. Indeed, following decolonization, the region’s newly independent cultures faced an urgent question. In what language should the newly postcolonial subject write?

Collectively colonized, collectively reactive. The Maghreb wrote back with the full force of the francophone tradition. From the first Black french novel, René Maran’s watershed Batouala (1921), to the Négritude poets, from André Breton and Jean-Paul Sartre championing the emergence of a Black french poetic voice and gaze, or Frantz Fanon’s investment in the Algerian struggle for independence, to the gendering and queering of postcolonial struggles for emancipation and equality in the works of Assia Djebar, Rachid O., Abdellah Taïa, Nina Bouraoui, Leïla Slimani, and Fatima Daas, post/colonial subjects endure persistent prejudices against “their past as one wasteland of nonachievement.”19 Where the colonized had learned (learned to endure) the colonizer’s tongue, “largely taught to the exclusion of other languages,” and forced to “give up” their own, postcolonial subjects, on the contrary, now deal with an embarrassment of cultural riches.20 As the Lebanese poet Salah Stétié, gelid, quips, “je savais [. . .] que ce n’était pas rien que d’être arabe, que ce n’était pas rien d’être d’islam” [I knew [. . .] that it was not nothing to be Arab, that it was not nothing to be of Islam].21 Yet the Islamic historiographic tradition, at turns empowering, others oppressive, has not been spared the corrective ire of authors like Assia Djebar, whose engagement with early Islam revolves around the systematic disappearing of women out of the record.22

The Maghreb has long been a region of intense spiritual and lingual interchange, and its literature more than mirrors this historical richness.23 “In a Maghrebian context,” writes Edwige Tamalet Talbayev, “diglossia manifests as a long-standing condition extending back in time beyond the threshold of the colonial conquest.”24 Maghrebi literature functions as an intensifying prism where the lingual densities of competing semiotic systems animate (in our case) the french-language surface. The Moroccan sociologist, semiotician, critic, and litterateur Abdelkébir Khatibi once declared that “la langue française n’est pas la langue française: elle est plus ou moins toutes les langues internes et externes qui la font et la défont” [the french language is not the french language: it is more or less all the internal and external languages that make and undo it].25 For Khatibi, observes Alison Rice, “language does not exist in a vacuum,” though neither is it any one individual’s or culture’s or nation’s property.26 Had Ferdinand de Saussure not reflected how “la colonisation, qui n’est qu’une forme de la conquête, transporte un idiome dans des milieux différents, ce qui entraîne des changements dans cet idiome” [colonization, which is only one form that conquest may take, brings about changes in an idiom by transporting it into different surroundings], or that lingual superimposition may also come through “la colonisation, la pénétration pacifique” [peaceful penetration in the form of colonization]?27 Language, transformative, modulatory, ever on the move, is, in the Maghreb, undergirded by “a notion of non-symbiotic bilingualism, which outlines a concept of hybridity that rests on the incommensurability between two lingual (and cultural) systems.”28 Khatibi famously dubs his version of this hybridity the bi-langue [bi-language], going as far as composing Amour bilingue [Love in Two Languages] (1983) as “a philosophical fiction where the ‘bilangue’ is the central figure.”29

Sepia skies. Year ago, what my mother had inculcated me with was not so much an authoritative theogony or explanation of identity, never mind piety, but a tactical move, part of a larger strategy for cultural resistance and transmission, a methodology for how to draw resourceful recourse to what the contemporary queer Moroccan writer Abdellah Taïa ascribes to “the language [that] was in me long before there was a me.”30 Easily memorized, embodied, attached to you like a piercing—I always knew I was in trouble when she’d glare, eyebrows raised, and throw darts at me in Egyptian, تعالا بس أقلك كلمه كده تخليها حلقه في ودانك‎ (taʿālā bass aʾullak kilmah kidah tikhalīhā ḥalaʾah fi-widānak [come let me just tell you a quick word you can keep it like a ring in your ears])—the simplicity of kun fa-yakūn’s alliterative sound-shape had, centuries later, by the time she verbalizes it aloud before me, been transformed into a household expression, a magical explanation for everything, transubstantiating the unknown into an ethereal, easier pill to swallow, adaptable to whatever life throws at you. So if I begin this essay with a personal story—the most personal memory—it is to posit, from the outset, the sounds and shapes, the forms of Arabic’s lingual, translingual, and even postlingual expressions, implicated in (implied by) the postfrancophone poetics of Maghrebi literature.31

Arabic and french in Habib Tengour’s L’épreuve de l’arc

Let us now dwell on postfrancophone poetics. In five movements, each clustered around a specific idiom, expression, or poetic trait, we will see how a postfrancophone poetics peels away at the many layers of the skin of french, dogged and ghosted by another language. A postfrancophone poetics isolates the fundamental plasticity of french, mollifies it with translation and intertextuality. Beneath the surface tension of Maghrebi literature’s invariably french-language appearance, the modernism of french poetics and the deep historical intertext of Islamic scripture and classical Arabic lyric freely, incessantly weave in and out of one another. Moving in and out of texts, in the context of a postfrancophone poetics, becomes a creative critical method. Like how, in what follows, I read just one main text, which allows me, by essay’s end, to, turn by turn, have woven a broad swath of Arabic, Islamic, Maghrebi, and french literary histories, references, patterns, preoccupations, motifs, in and out of my writing, and to leave french, and the french republic, far, far away. Behind us.

A postfrancophone poetics is best illustrated, to begin, with the aid of a specific example that foregrounds the triple lingual registers—classical Arabic, Qurʾānic Arabic, European poetic modernism—dwelling beneath the text’s french-language surface. I re-encounter leitmotifs, lingual-sonic childhood patterns, like kun fa-yakūn, in many pieces of Maghrebi literature. As in the very first word of the Algerian Habib Tengour’s L’épreuve de l’arc: séances 1982/1989 [Ordeal by Bow: Sessions 1982/1989] (1990).32

       ÉTANT—jointure du souffle—deux amisPoint de mire.Une exception.33       BEING—juncture of breath—two friendsFocal point.An exception.

Far more than just kun fa-yakūn lingers behind the eleven french words. A genreless text composed of short textual bursts or sessions or relations, L’épreuve de l’arc was written shortly before the outbreak of the Algerian Civil War (1991–2002).34 It acts as a harbinger of the turn Assia Djebar takes after the beginning of the war, with Le blanc de l’Algérie [Algerian White], further affirmed and chronicled at the end of this chapter in Algerian history by her haunting novel, La disparition de la langue française [The Disappearance of the french Language] (2003).35 While Djebar once maintained, as Jane Hiddleston writes, that “the French language is a ‘Tunique de Nessus,’ the poisoned shirt that killed Heracles, a form that destroys what it contains,” La disparition takes aim instead at archaic Arabo-Islamic conceptions of cultural epuration and lingual suppression, alternatively dressed as anticolonial, cultural, or domestic national policies. For Djebar, french emerges as a guarantor of lingual and epistemic diversity.36

L’épreuve de l’arc offers a grungier take on the rabble and riffraff of everyday life in the postcolony, a poetics that Tengour uses to distinguish himself from the towering figure of Kateb Yacine. Kateb’s landmark Nedjma (1956) revolves around four young men who fall in love with the titular character Nedjma—the elusive, symbolically charged daughter of an Algerian man and a French woman—whose name means “star.”37 As the date of publication suggests, the story takes place during the French colonial occupation of Algeria. From formal and structural perspectives, Nedjma is “a highly intricate novel characterized by multiple narrative voices, alternating narrative sequences, a non-chronological order, and overlapping individual or collective realities that take on mythical dimensions.”38 Tengour describes Nedjma as “réaliste et fantasmatique” [realistic and phantasmatic], and he is particularly sensitive to how the novel “mobilise la littérature française et internationale en même temps que la poésie populaire et la tradition orale algériennes. L’intertextualité n’est pas un procédé savamment élaboré mais le constat d’une situation et une nécessité de la narration” [mobilizes french and international literature as well as popular poetry and Algerian oral traditions. Intertextuality is not an elaborate artificial procedure, rather the acknowledgment of a situation and prerequisite for storytelling].39 Tengour parts ways with Kateb, opting for the poetic solution, freely integrating Arabic transcriptions into the textures of L’épreuve de l’arc, for “le peuple algérien ne parle pas français et Kateb Yacine le sait” [Algerian people don’t speak french and Kateb Yacine knows it].40 He outdoes Kateb without undoing him.41


Tengour divides his work into five parts, each titled after the first word or two in the section—“Étant” [Being], “Nous” [We], “Un” [A], “Elle” [She], “Il y a” [There are]—which both maintains and transgresses “the theological doctrine of iʿjāz al-Qurʾān, or the inimitability of the Qurʾān as a uniquely divine act of æsthetic expression”: many chapters in the Qurʾān are titled after an opening word, image, or a cluster of enigmatic letters called the muqaṭṭaʿāt.42 L’épreuve de l’arc, too, revolves enigmatic, mystical sounds and words that are not always given any evident explanation, but which accumulate significance when, for instance, considered against Qurʾānic willing-into-being. To the extent that it tells any story at all, L’épreuve de l’arc centers around the nameless narrator’s relationship with his nameless bestie, recounting what they do as university students (skip class), how they pass the time (in cinemas). They hang out with colonizers and expats, drink in Algerian bars, drunk-debate sharīʿah and politics, crack plans to go globetrotting and hitchhike in Nordic countries.43 Their romantic relations. Sexual misadventures. The narrator fails to get an erection, or will one into being, as his body refuses to obey his bidding, on his first visit to a brothel as a virgin.

Je me déshabillai, fébrilement. Ma crampe faisait mal. Je lui tournais le dos. Jamais je ne me suis montré nu à quelqu’un. J’avais honte de mon sexe qui refusait de bander depuis que nous étions entrés au bordel. Merde! Je pressai, je caressai, je tirai, je branlai, c’était de la guimauve!44

I stripped in my confusion. My cramp hurt. I gave her my back. I’d never been in the buff in front of anyone. I was ashamed of my penis, I couldn’t get a boner from the moment we walked into the brothel. Shit! I squeezed, I stroked, I pulled, I jerked, it was all marshmallow!

Though the text’s liminal ÉTANT foils the Arabic kun fa-yakūn’s Qurʾānic suddenness—“Be,” it says, “but it was not,” for human impotence pales in comparison to divine omnipotence—the text here goes much further. A postfrancophone poetics is a two-way street. L’épreuve de l’arc secularizes Arabic by coupling the failure of its sacred lingual register with erotic french verse. In a bookish demonstration of postfrancophone poetics’ engagement with the transhistorical transmissions of lyric modernity, the narrator, to his own surprise, immediately follows the self-derision of his soft body with a quote—“Mon vit reste Poltron, Mollasse en mesme sorte / Qu’un boyau replié en quelque chèvre morte! . . .” [My chicken-wienie’s just teeny, limp in a shed / Like twisted tripes in a goat that’s dead! . . .]—a couplet by Renaissance poet Rémy Belleau, whose erotic verse is spotlighted in Alfred Delvau’s Dictionnaire d’érotique moderne [Modern Erotic Dictionary], in wide circulation among the poets of the french 19th century, in the entries for con [cunt] and boyau [cock].45

Two but Eleven

The remainder of L’épreuve de l’arc follows the two friends, how they grow apart, their deceptions, let-downs, falling-out, “des jours qui font mal” [painful days].46 While the narrative furnishes a surplus of fodder primed for the conventional tropes of postcolonial subject matter (alienation, identity politics, who-am-I, who-are-we, where-do-we-go-from-here, the nascent nation-state’s cultural and political dead ends), a postfrancophone poetics lies elsewhere. In the irreverent, unusual mix of Belleau, Delvau, and the Qurʾān. As if that weren’t enough, within the kun fa-yakūn creationism of the opening ÉTANT—“be,” the text seems to say, and deux amis “were”—the evocation of “two friends” summons the foundational genre of Arabic literature, the philandering, polythematic pre-Islamic ode or qaṣīdah, which dates from the 5th and 6th centuries.47 At the very outset of L’épreuve de l’arc, Tengour inscribes a coded reference to the most famous of these, Imruʾ al-Qays’s muʿallaqah, which begins with the words قِفا نبْكِ‎ [qifā nabki, “let us both stop and weep,” or “stop, the two of you, let us weep”].48

In its most classical form, the qaṣīdah opens with a halt, even if the pre-Islamic poets, writes Tengour, “savent ce qu’il en est de la halte: un tas de cendres dispersées et qu’il n’y a rien à espérer d’une évocation nostalgique qu’un mauvais sang” [know what this halt is all about: a pile of scattered cinders with nothing to gain from nostalgic evocation but bad blood].49 The poets, next, following no preordained order, cycle through movements as varied as travel, descriptions of desert flora and fauna, reminiscences of sexual escapades, panegyric, or remarkable moments of deep subjective wonder and introspection while beholding the sky, the stars, desert storms on the horizon. Tengour reproduces many of the qaṣīdah’s motifs and idioms in his lyric.

J’ai caché un rêve dans ma tête pour venirIl a éclaté en coloquintes50I hid a dream in my head to comeHe exploded into colocynths

The word coloquinte or حَنْظَلِ‎ (ḥanẓali [colocynth, bitter gourd]) forms part of the translational history of Imruʾ’s qaṣīdah, specifically the poem’s fourth line.

                                   كَأنّي غداةَ البَيْنِ يومَ تَحَمَّلُوا لَدَى سَمُراتِ‎s الحيِّ ناقِفُ حَنْظَلِ51ka-ʾannī ghadāta-l-bayni yawma taḥammalūladā samurāti-l-ḥayīī nāqifu ḥanẓaliOn the morning when they loaded the camelsto depart, before the tribe’s acacia trees,I wept splittingbitter colocynths.52

In his french translation of Imruʾ, Abdelwahab Meddeb renders this line as

Comme si j’étais au matin de la séparation le jour où ils chargèrentPrès des épineux du campement, broyant la coloquinte.53

Tengour holds the generic predictability, idiomatic inescapability, and passé fashionability of the qaṣīdah in both admiration and contempt, disseminating it like shattered bits of bitter fruit by the withering thorn tree of french lyric. The qaṣīdah may persist as an immovable foundational poetics in Tengour’s writing, though he far from enshrines it as the literary paragon of a bygone age. Rather, he satirizes and parodies anything pertaining to or resembling identitarian fixity by calling out the blahs of humdrum ritualization for what they are.

La tribu a décampé laissant l’emplacement pollué. Débris de fer-blanc. Les poètes, deux à deux, gémination usuelle, se tenaient debout. Girouettes, la cinquantaine révolue. Des larmes ont été versées pour la forme. Les empreintes étaient vouées à disparaître dans le vent. Quelques vieilles en avaient relevé le tracé pour le reproduire en tatouages et motifs.

Une entrée en matière ritualisée.54

The tribe packed up camp, making a mare’s nest of the site. Scraps of tinplate. Poets, two by two, the usual twins, stood still. Weathercocks, past their fifties. Tears were shed for good form. The footprints were doomed to disappear in the wind. Some old women noted their outline and reproduced them as tattoos and motifs.

Ritualized beginnings.

A postfrancophone poetics weaponizes the irresolvable attraction to and repulsion by one’s own cultural heritage. It tempers the obsolescence of bygone forms with humor and irony, and through a simultaneous marshaling and undermining of conventional poetic tropes. The two friends, nostalgic fogies, transfigure Arabic and french, forever joined at the hip. A postfrancophone poetics modulates french lingual expression, and—as with coloquinte—integrates it into a wider translational, lexical web.

Nor, if Tengour’s nods to Belleau and Delvau are any indication, is that all. The layout of the eleven words on the page at the outset of L’épreuve de l’arc signals a clear poetic intent. It births verse. And all the poetic license that verse allows, from the syntactic egress of verbal absence (there is no verb in the first sentence, but a verbal noun “ÉTANT” [BEING]) to enjambment (where a verb would have followed the subject there is a line break, “deux amis / Point de mire” [two friends / Focal point]) to parataxis (the closing emergence of the exception and the exceptional, “Une exception” [An exception]). The eleven opening words coyly pay homage to—or play around—the sacred number of french verse, the twelve syllables of the alexandrine. The six words of the first line, a kind of visual hemistich, comprise eleven syllables, suggestive of a form of free-verse composition that once saddened Stéphane Mallarmé. “Le poëte d’un tact aigu,” complains Mallarmé,

qui considère cet alexandrin toujours comme le joyau définitif, mais à ne sortir, épée, fleur, que peu et selon quelque motif préméditée, y touche comme pudiquement ou se joue à l’entour, il en octroie de voisins accords, avant de le donner superbe et nu: laissant son doigté défaillir contre la onzième syllabe ou se propager jusqu’à une treizième maintes fois [The poet with acute tact who considers the alexandrine the definitive jewel, but not to bring out, sword, flower, very often and according to some premeditated end, touches it shyly or plays around it—he gives us neighboring chords before releasing it, super and naked: letting his fingers drag against the eleventh syllable or go on to a thirteenth, many times].55

The prudishness surrounding the alexandrine and its twelve jewel-like syllables among 19th-century poets, Mallarmé intuits, never actually dared go far enough in the emancipatory radicalization of french verse. The almost-but-not-quite alexandrine, as revisited by Tengour, who places it at the outset of L’épreuve de l’arc, short-circuits Mallarmé’s frustrations and condemnations by drawing a lyric course back to the Arabo-Islamic tradition instead.

For, everything, regardless how new, or old, has its time, and place. “Je ne vois,” confesses Mallarmé, in another emotional outburst, “et ce reste mon intense opinion, effacement de rien qui ait été beau dans le passé, je demeure convaincu que dans les occasions amples on obéira toujours à la tradition solennelle, dont la prépondérance relève du génie classique” [But I don’t see—and this remains my intense opinion—an erasure of anything that was beautiful in the past. I remain convinced that on grand occasions, poets will obey solemn tradition, of which the preponderance comes from the classic genius].56 On the thresholds of L’épreuve de l’arc, Tengour engages not just pre-Islamic modes of poetic address, but also Qurʾānic numerical occultism. Eleven is a mathematical denominator for ninety-nine, the number of names or al-asmāʾ al-ḥusná for Allah.57 These ninety-nine names are complemented or rounded out by the ghāʾib, the absent one, the unknowable hundredth name, unnamable, which assumes the form of the third-person masculine pronoun ciphering gender neutrality, and invoked as a tautology that frames and phrases the ineffability of the divine, هو‎ [huwa (He)], هو هو‎ [huwa hū (He is He)].

Moth Mush

With no more than a few words purposefully arranged on the page, Tengour weaves together pre-Islamic poetic patterns, Qurʾānic lingual registers, and debates central to the formations of french poetic modernity. The lingual and textual layering of words upon words, poetry beyond poems, constitute the defining aspects of a postfrancophone poetics. A paradigmatic text of the Maghrebi postindependence era, L’épreuve de l’arc is, end to literal end, intensely intertextual and translational.58 It draws on a wide range of literary precedents and renders them coeval with the french-language surface. Such references, as I have just outlined, form the primary locus of interest for a postfrancophone poetics. In L’épreuve de l’arc, the opening breath of life—the simultaneous creation and juncture of poetic breath—brings to the fore an exceptional textual density, a concatenated focal point consisting first and foremost of the elemental intertwinement of two of the Arabic tradition’s primary intertexts—the qaṣīdah and the Qurʾān—ever prevalent. Even (especially) when, as Tengour observes, “la forme de la qacîda sembl[e] périmée” [the qaṣīdah form seems outmoded], as it did “aux poètes novateurs de l’époque abbasside, tel Abu Nuwâs” [to the innovative poets of the ʿAbbāsid era, like Abū Nuwās].59 This is because the qaṣīdah’s

écho n’en continuera pas moins de faire vibrer la langue et prolonger l’attente sur d’autres modes [. . .] jusqu’à nos jours . . . La langue coranique, bien que plus prégnante dans la mémoire, n’a jamais réussi à évacuer définitivement la vibration du poème préislamique au creux de l’oreille [echo will never cease to make language vibrate, nor tarry long while other modes have their moment [. . .] all the way to the present day . . . Qurʾānic language, though more deeply implanted in memory, has never succeeded in definitively dislodging the vibration of the pre-Islamic poem in the crook of the ear].60

Likewise, french poetic modernity stalks Tengour’s every word. And when modernity’s dominant ethos in the 19th-century french lyric no longer seems fashionable, all one need do is turn to Isidore Ducasse, better known as the Comte de Lautréamont.61 He is all over L’épreuve de l’arc. Tengour’s text is drenched in Ducassian imagery, with descriptions of urban decay so florid . . .

Rêver dans les rues d’Alger, rues rances dans la lumière touffue, rues muettes dans le vacarme essoufflant des cohortes interminables, rues guerrières jadis, quand les bannières rugissaient sous les balles en rafales, rues agressives, inhospitalières et poisseuses à souhait . . . Que ça colle à la peau, luisances [. . .] atomiseur à codéine [. . .] suçons sonores [. . .] Les rues foisonnent de corps souples, on dirait des paillettes d’or, ils semblent allègres, dégingandés, étrangers à la ternissure des jours, et même bondissants, espiègles comme des flammèches, et aveugles surtout au grouillement atrabilaire qui couvre les trottoirs comme un tapis revêche. Il y a peu d’arbres et peu de lumières et beaucoup d’émanations soulevantes. On se faufile dans une épaisseur d’air. Les immeubles ont vécu et portent les stigmates de l’abandon. Les ascenseurs sont en panne chroniques. Les climatiseurs fuient [. . .] du sang mêlé dans le changement lent, imperceptible et maintes fois contrarié [. . .]62

Dreaming in the streets of Algiers, rancid roads in bristly light, mute streets in the breathless racket of crowded streams, warlike streets, once, when banners raged beneath bullet-fire salvo, aggressive streets, inhospitable and syrupy, viscous . . . stick-to-your-skin shiny [. . .] codeine atomizers [. . .] sonic hickeys [. . .] The roads teem with supple bodies, they look like gold sequins, they seem cheery, gangly, bouncy, even, out of whack with the daytime drab, puckish like sparks, and blind, above all, to the atrabilious swarming covering up the sidewalks like a scratchy rug. There are few trees and little light and lots of wafting fumes. You saunter in thickish air. The buildings survived and bear the stigmata of abandon. The elevators are in chronic disrepair. The ACs leak [. . .] blood mixed in with slow, imperceptible change, constantly thwarted [. . .]

. . . they recall the apocalyptic atmosphere of Lautréamont’s infamous tableau of Paris’s rue Vivienne in Les chants de Maldoror [The Songs of Maldoror] (1869).63 The apocalypse lurks just down the street, right around the corner.

Dans les rues les rêves se rêvent tout haut, en couleurs. C’est l’éclatante constance de l’assaut.«Semblables à des papillons dispersés». . .Semblables à nos rêves corrompus, torturés ou séduits, oh vers toi . . . Dragon vidé de son sang, jouet des passereaux et du feuillage, dans un jet de fontaine rêveur. . .64In the streets dreams are dreamt out loud, in technicolor. It’s the dazzling constancy of assault.Like scattered moths” . . .Like our spoiled dreams, tortured or seduced, oh toward you . . . Dragon drained of blood, plaything for sparrows and foliage, in dreamy fountain jet.

Here Tengour drives the apocalyptic register home by directly quoting sura 101 of the Qurʾān. The quote comes from a microconstellation of short suras on the resurrection arranged toward the end of the Qurʾān’s 114 chapters. Like the imperfect alexandrine, the ordered emplacement of the apocalyptic suras hovers around the sacred numeral ninety-nine—al-Bayyinah [Clear Evidence, 98], al-Zzalzalah [The Earthquake, 99], al-ʿĀdiyāt [The Charging Steeds, 100], al-Qāriʿah [The Crashing Blow, 101], al-Takāthur [Striving for More, 102].

The Crashing Blow! What is the Crashing Blow? What will explain to you what the Crashing Blow is? On a Day when people will be like scattered moths and the mountains like tufts of wool, the one whose good deeds are heavy on the scales will have a pleasant life, but the one whose good deeds are light will have the Bottomless Pit for his home—what will explain to you what that is?—a blazing fire. (101:1–11)65

In Arabic, the soft mush of the phonemic patterning for “like scattered moths” (كَالْفَرَاشِ الْمَبْثُوثِ‎ [ka-l-farāshi-l-mabthūthi]) and “like tufts of wool” (كَالْعِهْنِ الْمَنْفُوشِ‎ [ka-l-ʿihni-l-manfūshi]) are, just like كُن فَيَكُون‎ (kun fa-yakūn [be, and it is]), integral sonic components of the Arabo-Islamic soundscape, sermons blaring in thickish air over loudspeakers precariously hooked onto minarets of mosques. While “écluse” [lock] in the following passage would usually refer to a hydraulic device used in a waterway such as a canal to raise and lower watercraft between waters of different levels, Tengour deploys it as a metaphor to underscore the transference from the visual to the sonic domain of language. “Ce n’était qu’alibis truqués,” writes Tengour, “rebattus, afin de supporter avec résignation, sans intenter la plus petite action, le braillement fanatique des haut-parleurs . . . Nous ne savions pas soutenir les écluses oculaires” [It was all rigged alibis, beaten to death, just so we can put up with resignation, zero intent of the smallest action whatsoever, the fanatical brawling of loudspeakers. . . We just couldn’t stand the ocular locks].66

Scatter Scale

Tengour assures safe literary passage from the Qurʾān to Lautréamont, validating his recital or appropriation of apocalyptic imagery both acoustic (the /ʃ/ in farāsh mabthūth andʿihn manfūsh) and textual (“dragon vidé de son sang” [dragon drained of blood]), through the intercession (intertextual blessing) of Suhrawardī. Qiṣṣat al-ghurbah al-gharbīyah [The Story of Western Exile] represents an exemplary model for the poetics of citational re/appropriation of the Qurʾān to literary ends. In Suhrawardī’s text, “every other word or phrase is taken from the Qurʾān and woven seamlessly into the fabric of the story,” every aspect of the plot “troped through an episode from the life of a Qurʾānic prophet or other,” such that “the narrator re-enacts the key chapters of the Qurʾān and the lives of the Qurʾānic prophets through his person—he is successively Noah, Lot, Moses, Solomon—thereby reciting it as if it had been revealed for him alone.”67

When Tengour indexes his own narrative through the qaṣīdah, the Qurʾān, and the french poets, he marks the key مواقف‎ (mawāqif [stations]) or halting moments of a postfrancophone poetics. He, too, is successively Imruʾ, Suhrawardī, Mallarmé, Lautréamont, the Animals of the Apocalypse. The textual image of the dragon, for instance, appears in a hallucinatory passage of Qiṣṣat al-ghurbah al-gharbīyah, where the narrator strikes up a reference to the oil lamp of illumination from the Qurʾān and quotes, in the same breath, the expression والرَ‎'سِخُونَ فِى الْعِلْمِ‎ (wa-al-rāsikhūna fī al-ʿlmi [those firmly grounded in knowledge]) from the sura Āl ʿImrān [The Family of ʿImran].68 The speaking voice in Suhrawardī then ascends, in a re-enactment of the isrāʾ and miʿrāj of Muḥammad, with the oil lamp of light, knowledge, and cosmic illumination through the heavens and the constellations of the sky, only to deposit it, like a sacred gage, in the mouth of the celestial dragon.69

ورأيتُ سراجاً فيه دهنٌ وينبجس منه نور ينتشر في أقطار البيت، ويشتعل مشكاتها ويشعل سُكّانها من اشراق نور الشمسعليهم‎.فجعلتُ السراج فى فم تنينٍ ساكنٍ في برجِ دولاب تحته بحر قلزم وفوقه كواكب ما عرف مطارح أشعّتها الّا بارئها‎ "والراسخون في العلم‎."70wa-raʾaytu sirājan fīhi dihnun wa-yanbajisu minhi nūrun wa-yantashiru fī aqtāri al-bayti, wa-yashtaʿilū mishkātuhā wa-yashʿalu sukkānuhā min ishrāqi nūrI al-shamsi ʿalayhim.fa-jaʿaltu al-sirāja fī fami tinnīnin sākinin fī burji dūlābin taḥtahu baḥru qulzum wa-fawqahu kawākibu mā ʿarifu maṭāriḥa ashiʿʿatihā illā bāriʾuhā “wa-al-rāsikhūna fī al-ʿlmi.”Je vis une lampe contenant de l’huile; il en jaillissait une lumière qui répandait partout dans la maison. La niche de la lampe s’allumait et les habitants s’embrasaient au contact de la lumière du soleil levant.Je mis la lampe dans la gueule du dragon habitant la tour de la roue hydraulique. Il y avait, au-dessous, une Mer Rouge; au-dessus, des astres dont personne ne connaît le foyer d’irradiation hormis leur créateur et ceux qui sont très-savants.71I saw a lamp containing oil, and from it a light shone, spreading out through all parts of the house. It lit up the niche, and the inhabitants were lighted by the illumination of the sun’s light on them.I put the lamp in the mouth of a dragon that dwelt in the tower of the waterwheel beneath which was the Sea of Clysma and above which were stars the origin of whose rays was known only to the Creator and those “who are well grounded in the knowledge.”72

Qiṣṣat al-ghurbah al-gharbīyah offers an archetype for one of the primary features of a postfrancophone poetics—the seamless quotation, recitation, and narrative integration of the Qurʾān into a different lingual and generic register—centuries before the french colonial empire, its spread, downfall, still ongoing fallout. It is no coincidence that Suhrawardī should become an indispensable—and contested—intertext in the postfrancophonist’s poetic arsenal. Qiṣṣat al-ghurbah al-gharbīyah in particular, as Abdelwahab Meddeb had polemicized in a rebuttal of french orientalist appropriations of Suhrawardī, perdures as an inexhaustible resource, at everyone’s fingertips.73

The intertextual lineage of moths and dragons cuts across the Maghreb, links Tengour to Meddeb, who, in turn, extends the scope of the image by integrating even more references to flight—this time from Farīd al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār’s Manṭiq al-Ṭayr [The Conference of the Birds] (1177) and Charles Baudelaire’s Les fleurs du mal [Flowers of Evil] (1857)—into his poetry collection, Matière des oiseaux [Matter of Birds] (2001).

Le dragon d’une ville à l’autreil a été vu ce matin74je marche à la traque de sa silhouettegardienne qui affronte le dangeraudacieuse stature accrochant sa robela déchirant l’ayant tirée au cours des pasaprès avoir frôlé les aiguilles du dragon75Marabouts du vide se reflètent sur le chottLa croûte détachée comme écailles de dragon76les yeux ouverts sur le noir sans fanauxni lune peuplé par les têtes tranchéesdes ogres et dragons que compte la contrée77The dragon from city to cityhe was seen this morningI walk tracking her silhouettesentinel braving dangeraudacious stature clawing her dressshredding it having drawn it over her stepsafter grazing the needles of the dragonMarabouts of the void reflected in the chottCrust flaking like dragon-scaleseyes open onto the beaconlessmoonless black inhabited by the sliced headsof ogres and dragons claimed by the country

Meddeb’s draconic dismemberments—heads, needles, scales, scattered across the cities and geological formations of the world, talismanic offerings beckoning the return of the beloved, depicted in the inescapable, vibratory idiom and ubiquitous imagery of the qaṣīdah—brings us back full circle to Lautréamont. Not that Lautréamont is in search of love, or nearly as charitable as the Maghrebis to flying animals. But in Maldoror, in a parody of Abrahamic sacrifice, a sort of mimetic antithesis of Meddeb, Lautréamont coolly slays a dragon named Espérance [Hope].78 As for Tengour, he sneaks in one more oblique reference to Lautréamont in “ÉTANT,” in the guise of the expression “têtes molles” [dum-dum-heads], which appears under Lautréamont’s pen in the middle of his diagnosis of the 19th-century’s poetic decrepitude in Poésies I [Poems I] (1870).79 Tengour later quotes the opening line of Poésies I, “Les gémissements poétiques de ce siècle ne sont que des sophismes” [The poetic whimperings of this century are nothing but sophistry], verbatim.80 So deep are Lautréamont’s claws sunk in Tengour that the narrator’s friend in L’épreuve de l’arc “m’avoua ne plus croire en Dieu depuis l’été passé où il avait dévoré les Chants de Maldoror” [confessed to me that he stopped believing in God ever since he devoured The Songs of Maldoror last summer].81 Lautréamont’s lyric parasitizes L’épreuve de l’arc through and through.82

Long Night

A postfrancophone poetics retaliates by parasitizing french, long an unwelcome host on colonized land. The postfrancophone dwells in the juncture, gestures toward art’s exit out of the strictures of post/colonialism. After the long sunset of the colonial empire, the long night of gnawing on the instruments of its lingual oppressions by an apocalyptic army of dead poets embracing “tout ce qui sépare la rue à la rencontre” [all that separates the road at the encounter].83 The qaṣīdah is never-ending, gleans Tengour, when he describes the resistant, insistent “vibration du poème préislamique au creux de l’oreille” [vibration of the pre-Islamic poem in the crook of the ear].84 So Imruʾ is far from the only pre-Islamic poet to stalk Tengour. Others, ancient ones, too, parasitize his versifications of the french. They enable a postfrancophone poetics to stretch to eternity the ongoing undoing of french.

Jure-moi l’Éternité mon cœur chemin aride      à éteindre                                                               Ô suppliantLa gravité des larmes où savoir être      SimpleEnlacer le regard droit                                                           Livrer le secret fou comme le sang                                                           Longue nuit d’an-NabighaEt tout ce qui sépare la rue à la rencontre85Promise me Eternity my heart arid path      to flip                                                               O supplicantThe weight of tears where knowing being      SimpleEmbrace the straight gaze                                                           Free the secret mad like blood                                                           Al-Nābighah’s long nightAnd all that separates the road at the encounter

Al-Nābighah al-Dhubyānī’s celebrated muʿallaqah is an iʿtidhārīyah or apology, occasioned, according to lore, by the accusation that he once “composed verses that include an erotic description” of the wife of the Lakhmid king al-Nuʿmān ibn al-Mundhir Abū Qābūs (r. 580–602 ce) “so explicit as to suggest—or rather confirm—a sexual relationship between the two.”86 Tengour’s line, “Longue nuit d’an-Nabigha” [Al-Nābighah’s long night], the supplicant’s restless all-night wake, evokes the pre-Islamic poet’s “notorious poem describing the king’s wife, his dālīyah that opens ‘Are you leaving Mayyah’s people tonight or on the morrow?’ (a-min āli Mayyata rāʾiḥun aw mughtadi).”87 In the muʿallaqah, the poet observes the customary halt upon the beloved’s campsite, but insists on the scene’s evening-to-nighttime setting, referring to it no less than three times in the first six verses alone.

                                                                 وقفتُ فيها أُصيلاناً أُسائلُها‎ [. . .]                                                            أمسَت خلاءً وأمسى أهلُها احتملوا‎ [. . .]88waqaftu fīhā uṣīlānān usāʾiluhā [. . .]amsat khalāʾan wa-amsā ahluhā iḥtamalū [. . .]I stopped there in the eveningto question it [. . .]By evening the abode lay empty,By evening its people had packed up and left [. . .]89

The poet then sets out on his camel on a journey to the patron’s court. He compares his mount to مُستأنِسٍ وحَدِ‎ / من وحشِ وجرةَ موشيٍّ‎ (mustaʾnisin waḥadi / min waḥshi wajrata mawshiyyin [a lone and cautious bull/From the oryx of Wajrah]), then portrays the animal’s state against a nighttime tableau, full of apprehension, thick with fear, sated in bitter cold.90

                                                            أسرَتْ عليه من الجوزاءِ ساريةٌ تُزجي الشمالَ عليه جامدَ البردِ                                                            فارتاعَ من صوتِ كَلّابٍ فباتَ لهُ طوعَ الشوامتِ من خوفٍ ومن صردِ91asrat ʿalayhi min al-jawzāʾi sariyatun                              tuzjī-l-shamāla ʿalayhi jāmida-l-baradifa-rtāʿa min ṣawti kallabin fa-bāta lahu                              ṭawʿa-l-shawāmiti min khawfin wa-min ṣaradiAt night in the rising of Oriona rain cloud overtook him,                              And over him the north wind                              drove freezing hail.The voice of the hunter calling his houndsAlarmed him,                              So he stood awake through the night,                              beset by fear and bitter cold.92

In Jacques Berque’s french rendition of the lines, the poet says that

j’y fis halte au crépusculepour l’interroger[. . .]Le site est devenu solitude, les gens en ont émigré[. . .] un guetteur solitaire /d’entre les taureaux sauvages de Wajra[. . .] La voix d’un maître de meute l’épouvanteil lui abandonne, au gré de ses jambesune nuit de froidure et de peur.93

In french poetics, the word nuit [night] bears the brunt of Mallarmé’s lamentation that it contains a light vowel, whereas the word jour [day] carries a dark one. “Quelle déception,” goes the complaint, “devant la perversité conférant à jour comme à nuit, contrairement, des timbres obscur ici, là clair” [what a disappointment, in front of the perversity that makes jour [day] and nuit [night], contradictorily, sound dark in the former and light in the latter].94 But in Arabic, both نهار‎ (nahār [daytime]) and ليل‎ (layl [night]) feature light vocalic timbres, while the combination of the two, يوم‎ (yawm [day]), features a diphthong—not quite dark, not quite light—an admixture of both. In opening his poem, al-Nābighah lights up the nighttime thrice—أُصيلاناً‎ (uṣīlānān [at nightfall]), أمسَت‎ (amsat [it spent the evening]), أمسى‎ (amsā [by evening they had])—in an imagined black-flash and projection onto the past, the past he had just missed, where he could have been, earlier, had he been in time, perhaps, in time to catch a final glimpse of Mayyah, one more time. Al-Nābighah’s triple light of night undoes habitual temporal partitions, cleavages into lightness and darkness. He produces a single, long, extended evening twilight, exhibiting all gradations of light—all gradations of vocalic timbre. Tengour’s loaded reference to the “longue nuit d’an-Nabigha” transforms, in turn, the french word nuit into an endless night, or endless day, illuminated, depending on the translation, by either Orion or Gemini (الجوزاءِ‎ [al-jawzāʾi]), one constellation leading to the other. Al-Nābighah/Tengour’s long night smudges the semantic and sonic difference between jour and nuit. It erases french with french.

So Long, or, french beyond Being

The end. We are at wit’s end with french. Where does this leave us? Where do we go from here? Do we part ways with french? Do we stick to “the straight path”?95 In a postfrancophone poetics, one lingual register begets another, junctures along the path, twigs on a branch, secret caverns, silently connected. Out of the erasure, by al-Nābighah’s long night, of, in Mallarmé, french’s sonic-semantic cleft, temporal expansion emerges. Then, after the qaṣīdah, with the advent of Islam, the expansiveness of time re-emerges out of the sura al-Kahf, as it retells the story of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, or أهل الكهف‎ (ahl al-kahf [the companions of the cave]). The plot thickens. The story continues. The postfrancophone Maghrebi corpus is immense. From the seismic verse of Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine to the very recent phenomenon of walking into bookshops in France, only to stumble upon bilingual editions of postfrancophone poetry, even the muʿallaqāt, or the rubāʿiyyāt of ʿOmar Khayyām, newly reimagined, for children, Arabic and french seem permanently wed to one another.96 A postarabic poetics, too, has even been spotted on the loose.97

As a ختم‎ (khitm), a closing, a seal, or balm, for this essay, let us redirect our bearings a final time to the Qurʾān and bear witness to the extent of its overreach into the postfrancophone poetics of Maghrebi literature. The sura al-Kahf, recited aloud on minarets in the morning before Friday prayers, plays around the precise number of the Sleepers, an irresolvable equation, compounded by the companionship and presence of the Sleepers’ pet dog.98 Yet the question of time, an ever-expansive day, or another long night, forms the passage’s closing coda.

In time We woke them up, and they began to question one another. One of them asked, “How long have you been here?” and [some] answered, “A day or part of a day” [. . .] The sleepers stayed in their cave for three hundred years, some added nine more. (18:19, 25)99

The night, so long, the day, eternal, of the Seven Sleepers, become encoded, via Tengour’s reference to al-Nābighah, stab at Mallarmé, into the broader, intertwined history of french and postfrancophone poetry and poetics. Arthur Rimbaud refers to the “sommeil continu des Mahométans légendaires” [nonstop sleep of the legendary Mohammedans] in a seldom discussed text, Les déserts de l’amour [The Deserts of Love].100 Moroccan poet Mostafa Nissabouri builds an entire poetics around the significance of the cave and the night, going as far as mixing the Greek mythological figure of the minotaur with an explicit rewriting of al-Kahf’s Qurʾānic numerology.

Des grottes ouvertes pour la reptation de mes côtes comme sij’étais comme si la ville et la grotte en moiétaient séparées en ordinateurs chacun utilisant son proprecalcul poursuivant sa propre aventure de sillonnement de          destruction de rêve[. . .]sans sépulture face à la ville à détruire et dont il restera uneautre ville que nous appellerons tous                              Palmyreet la grotte et le livre du doutecinq hommes et le sixième un chien et moi le minotaureet encore moi le minotaure la grotte six hommes et le septièmeun chien et moi le minotaureet encore la grotte six chiens six hommes et encore la grotteun chien sans hommes et le chien apparaît avec l’effigie de sonabsencesurtout la grotte à peupler de visions où traquer dans le rired’autres têtes de vaches [. . .]Caves opened for the crawling of my ribs as if I were as ifthe city and cave in mewere separated into computers each using its own systempathfinding on its own a criss-crossing          destruction and dream[. . .] without gravesfacing the city to destroy and of which another city will remainthat we will call                              Palmyraand the cave and the book of doubtfive men and the sixth a dog and I the minotaurand still I the minotaur the cave six men and the seventh a dogand I the minotaurand still the cave six dogs six men and still the cave a dog with-out men and the dog appears with the effigy of its absenceabove all to people the cave with visions in which to hunt downin others’ laughter cow heads [. . .]101

Nissabouri’s lyric-I often reincarnates an intrusive minotaur, as in the poem “Plus haute mémoire” [Higher Memory], where “je pars d’une fêlure / de minotaure pensif” [I start from the crack / of a pensive minotaur].102 The lyric-I then clasps shut the poem’s first section with the line, “je suis une série de cavernes où se forgent toutes les mémoires / possibles” [I am a series of caves in which all possible memories are / forged].103

Now let’s face it. At the end of the day, a language is a language is a language is a language. I could write a novel about how french is no longer french, but the honest truth is that french ain’t goin’ nowhere. What I hope to have shown, as I finish this off, in the end, with my seal, is that the formerly colonized have constructed a series of caves, lingual networks, brimming with textual and intertextual memory, beneath the translational french shell. They have figured out how to take an ailing, weakened, frail french hostage. How to inhabit french. How to exit french.104

The republic, meanwhile, busies itself still, trying to figure out, short of willing them away, how to include them.105

How to be.

Discussion of the Literature

Richard Serrano once lamented how “the postcolonial canon is oddly small and shrinking (always Assia Djebar, always Maryse Condé).”106 Any discussion of a given field may, in the absence of certain figures, thus seem lacking, and Djebar has indeed stalked all of my words in this entry. While a postfrancophone poetics need not dwell on the ubiquity of a single writer—particularly one whose life and contributions to the field have been both lauded and heavily criticized across political and aesthetic spectra—it dovetails with Serrano’s frustrations and desires, the call to unravel novel literary and poetic terrain. And any terrain implies a path . . . rather well-trodden in this case. Striving toward a postfrancohpone poetics would not be possible without the trailblazing interventions of an entire generation of francophone postcolonialist scholars who have dedicated their lives to a politically committed exhaustion of the Maghrebi literary archive. Mohamed-Salah Omri highlights how “one tendency remained somewhat constant. The subordination of historiography to political power endowed literature with the role of recording, and making sense of, the turbulent times and lives of North African societies as they transition into independence,” yet Jane Hiddleston qualifies that, “despite an ongoing commitment to the critique of authoritarianism” in the postcolonial era, “the ability of literature to exert influence on politics as well as on the wider society is something that recent writers openly throw into question.”107 Countering the hegemony of the political reading of literature, Tahar Bekri’s 1986 study, Malek Haddad. L’œuvre romanesque: pour une poétique de la littérature maghrébine de langue française, was among the first to challenge nationalist dismissals of authors like Haddad and Djebar, arguing instead for “l’enchevêtrement de plusieurs circuits linguistiques (l’arabe parlé, l’arabe écrit—classique et moderne—, le berbère, le français)” [the enmeshment of several lingual flows (spoken Arabic, written Arabic—classical and modern—Berber, french)], and favoring how “la diglossie littéraire qui en résulte constitue des obstacles à la création” [the ensuing literary diglossia constitutes obstacles to creation].108 As important as the “obstacles to creation” are the obstacles to reaching a readership within the Maghrebi space itself, a common thorn in the side of francophone Maghrebi literary production that Abdelfattah Kilito brilliantly breaks down in Je parle toutes les langues, mais en arabe (2013).

It is fitting that my discussion of the critical literature, too, open with the infamous language question. Bekri’s title had appeared in the immediate wake of the influential collective volume, Du bilinguisme (1985), which gathers reflections by a heteroclitic round-up of some of North African and Europe’s most iconoclastic intellectuals: Abdelkébir Khatibi, Tzvetan Todorov, Ahmed Boukous, Jacques Hassoun, Jalil Bennani, Éliane Formentelli, Abdelwahab Meddeb, Abdallah Bounfour, Abdelfattah Kilito, François Cheng.109 It was precisely during this period in the 1980s that a number of critics and scholars were publishing seminal monographs on individual authors.110 These collective and individual forays into the poetics of specific writers entailed complementary investments in the question of modernity in the 1990s, particularly poignant when considered against the backdrop of the Moroccan Years of Lead and then the Algerian Civil War.111 Mildred Mortimer describes how the first francophone Maghrebi novelists sought recourse to “historical events to promote individual and collective maturation,” for their writing evinced “a new political awareness [. . .] presented as both an individual and a group process.”112 As the early 21st century began affording some distance from both the region’s colonial past and its more recent internal struggles, scholars like Mortimer began to take stock of the literature’s engagement with identity quests, interior psychological turmoil, the status of women in society, and even, in a moment of critical prescience, what Hakim Abderrezak would later dub “ex-centric migration” within the region’s literary landscape.113

Then a bombshell was dropped on francophone postcolonial studies toward the end of the 21st century’s first decade. Just as the field was culminating in a number of sweeping publications, consolidated around a nexus of critical tools deeply invested in history, politics, and geography and their relationship to language, gender, and identity, “forty-four writers—among them Tahar Ben Jelloun, Maryse Condé, Édouard Glissant, and J.-M. G. Le Clézio—declared the death of Francophone literature and the birth of ‘world literature in French.’”114 Their hotly debated manifesto appeared in the pages of the french daily Le Monde on March 15, 2007.115 In her sober survey and critique of the polemic, Emily Apter observes how partisans of litt-monde sought to replace “the outmoded term ‘Francophone,’ a carrier of neo-colonial, orientalist baggage, a ghettoizing, divisive, exclusionary term in publishing and academia, and a tautology, since all speakers of French are Francophone,” whereas for its detractors, litt-monde flattened the lingual and textual depth of the french-language surface. Litt-monde thus appears at odds with a postfrancophone poetics.116

In the field’s new grooves, created by the methodological forkings of the litt-monde polemics, Mortimer pursued her engagement with the literary production of Maghrebi women in Women Fight, Women Write (2019).117 The title forms part of an intellectual tradition that includes Winifred Woodfull’s Transfigurations of the Maghreb: Feminism, Decolonization, and Literatures (1993), Françoise Lionnet’s Postcolonial Representations: Women, Literature, Identity (1995), and Valérie Orlando’s Nomadic Voices of Exile: Feminine Identity in Francophone Literature of the Maghreb (1999).118 While Orlando pursues her interests in feminine identity and subjecthood in Of Suffocated Hearts and Tortured Souls (2003), which features erudite literary readings across the African continent and diaspora, and offers the benefit of bringing together both canonical and more recent authors, her landmark study of The Algerian New Novel (2017) gestures toward some of the complicit aesthetic intertwinements of a postfrancophone poetics.119 The Algerian New Novel makes the bold move of situating canonical works of francophone Maghrebi literature “as part of the larger literary production of authors writing in experimental styles and modes in French during the decades of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s.”120 And finally, while an overwhelming majority of scholarship on the francophone Maghreb has focused on prose writing, the field bears the mark of a pointed turn to poetry and poetics, thanks to Thomas C. Connolly’s double special issue of Yale French Studies on North African Poetry in French (2020).121

Links to Digital Materials

Further Reading

  • Adonis. Sufism and Surrealism. Translated by Judith Cumberbatch. London: Saqi Books, 2005.
  • Bennani, Jalil, Abdelkébir Khatibi, Tzvetan Todorov, Ahmed Boukous, Jacques Hassoun, Jalil Bennani, Éliane Formentelli, Abdelwahab Meddeb, Abdallah Bounfour, Abdelfattah Kilito, and François Cheng. Du bilinguisme. Paris: Denoël, 1985.
  • Bensmaïa, Réda. Experimental Nations: Or, the Invention of the Maghreb. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003.
  • Derrida, Jacques. Le monolinguisme de l’autre, ou, la prothèse d’origine. Paris: Galilée, 1996.
  • Derrida, Jacques. Monolingualism of the Other; or, the Prosthesis of Origin. Translated by Patrick Mensah. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998.
  • Dubreuil, Laurent. L’empire du langage: colonies et francophonies. Paris: Hermann, 2008.
  • elhariry, yasser. Pacifist Invasions: Arabic, Translation, and the Postfrancophone Lyric. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2017.
  • Esposito, Claudia. The Narrative Mediterranean: Beyond France and the Maghreb. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014.
  • Gramling, David. The Invention of Monolingualism. New York: Bloomsbury, 2016.
  • Harrison, Olivia C. Transcolonial Maghreb: Imagining Palestine in the Era of Decolonization. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015.
  • Harrison, Olivia C., and Teresa Villa-Ignacio, eds. Souffles-Anfas: A Critical Anthology from the Moroccan Journal of Culture and Politics. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015.
  • Heller-Roazen, Daniel. “Speaking in Tongues.” Paragraph 25, no. 2 (2002): 92–115.
  • Hiddleston, Jane. Writing after Postcolonialism: Francophone North African Literature in Translation. London: Bloomsbury, 2017.
  • Khatibi, Abdelkébir. Plural Maghreb: Writings on Postcolonialism. Translated by P. Burcu Yalim. London: Bloomsbury, 2019.
  • Kilito, Abdelfattah. Lan tatakallama lughatī. Beirut, Lebanon: Dār al-Ṭalīʿa li-l-Ṭibāʿa wa-l-Nashr, 2002.
  • Kilito, Abdelfattah. Thou Shalt Not Speak My Language. Translated by Waïl S. Hassan. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2008.
  • Kilito, Abdelfattah. Tu ne parleras pas ma langue. Translated by Francis Gouin. Arles, France: Actes Sud, 2008.
  • Miller, Christopher. “Francophonie and Independence.” In A New History of French Literature. Edited by Denis Hollier, 1028–1034. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.
  • Omri, Mohamed-Salah. “Min ajl naẓarīyah fī al-tarāfud al-adabī: fī shiʿrīyat al-muqāranah wa-akhlāqīyātihā” [Towards a Theory of Literary Tarāfud/Confluency: On the Poetics and Ethics of Comparison]. In Al-Dars al-muqāranī wa-taḥāwur al-ādāb [The Comparative Lesson and the Dialogue of Literatures]. Edited by Maḥmūd Harshūnah, 13–51. Tunis, Tunisia: Bayt al-Ḥikmah, 2015.
  • Tamalet Talbayev, Edwige. The Transcontinental Maghreb: Francophone Literature Across the Mediterranean. New York: Fordham University Press, 2017.
  • Yildiz, Yasemin. Beyond the Mother Tongue: The Postmonolingual Condition. New York: Fordham University Press, 2013.


  • 1. Michel Foucault, Les mots et les choses (Paris: Gallimard, 1966), 313; and Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences (London: Routledge, 2002), 327.

  • 2. Alan Jones, “Introduction,” in Early Arabic Poetry, Volume Two: Select Odes, ed. Jones, Alan, 1–24 (Reading, UK: Ithaca Press, 1996), 5.

  • 3. “The Gospel According to John” (1:1, 3), in The New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha, ed. Michael D. Coogan, Marc Z. Brettler, Carol A. Newsom, and Pheme Perkins (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 1881.

  • 4. John Ashbery, “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” in Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1975), Collected Poems 1956–1987, ed. Mark Ford (London: Carcanet, 2010), 486; Foucault, Les mots et les choses, 298; Foucault, The Order of Things, 311; quoted in James A. Steintrager and Rey Chow, “Sound Objects: An Introduction,” in Sound Objects (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2019), 9.

  • 5. Michel Serres, Genèse (Paris: Grasset, 1982), 33; and Michel Serres, Genesis (1982), trans. Geneviève James and James Nielson (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995), 13.

  • 6. The Qurʾān, trans. M. A. S. Abdel Haleem (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 14.

  • 7. Qurʾān, 38–39.

  • 8. Qurʾān, 85.

  • 9. Qurʾān, 168.

  • 10. Qurʾān, 192.

  • 11. Qurʾān, 284.

  • 12. Qurʾān, 305.

  • 13. See Mohammed Arkoun, ʿAlī Ḥarb, Abdelwahab Meddeb, ʿAlī Zīʿūr, Jamal Eddine Bencheikh, Burhān Ghalyūn, ʿAbbās Bayḍūn, Ḥāzem Ṣāghīyah, Nizār al-Zīn, and Mālik Shibl, Tasāʾulāt ḥawl al-huwīyah al-ʿarabīyah (Damascus, Syria: Bidāyāt li-l-Tibāʿa wa-l-Nashr wa-l-Tawzīʿ, 2008); I am committed to using small-f french throughout as a stubborn reminder of the absence of capitalization in Arabic script—which very quickly invaded and demoted French to french in the postcolonial era—as well as an equalizing gesture against the standard capitalization of “French” vis-à-vis the inconsistencies that plague “Francophone” and “francophone”; see yasser elhariry, “f,” in “Literature and the World,” ed. Simon Gikandi, special issue, PMLA 131, no. 5 (2016): 1274–1283. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin have commented on “‘english’ literatures” and “english” as social practice in The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-colonial Literatures (1989; repr., London: Routledge, 2002), 10–11, 45, 51–53. While to my knowledge there have been no similar critical efforts to decapitalize Arabic, it seems to me that the postfrancophone authors I discuss here assail the originary status and authority of Arabic in the Maghrebi literary landscape as much as they do french. Further inquiry into postfrancophone poetics may ironically reveal a lingering colonial logic of hybridity as it underlies the postfrancophone orientation. While a postfrancophone poetics successfully rehabilitates old Arabic forms as it hacks and hijacks french, it remains impervious to the Arabics that follow the pre-Islamic, early Islamic, and classical periods.

  • 14. See the Transnational Modern Languages book series. Françoise Lionnet and Shu-mei Shih speak of a minor transnationalism, while lingual porosity has been described by Steven G. Kellman in terms of translingualism: see Françoise Lionnet and Shu-mei Shih, eds., Minor Transnationalism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005); Steven G. Kellman, The Translingual Imagination (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000); Jacquelin Dutton, “World Literature in French, Littérature-Monde, and the Translingual Turn,” French Studies 70, no. 3 (2016): 404–418. In francophone postcolonial studies, only Lia Brozgal and Leslie Barnes have given postfrancophonie any consideration: see Lia Brozgal, Against Autobiography: Albert Memmi and the Production of Theory (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2013), 162; Leslie Barnes, Vietnam and the Colonial Condition of French Literature (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014), 20–21. Of particular interest is Mohamed-Salah Omri’s theory of literary tarāfud or confluency between languages in the Maghreb. Drawing on critical usages of the concept of the faille (in Abdelkébir Khatibi) or fault line (in Frederic Jameson, and Franco Moretti), Omri posits that

    the Maghreb compels us to take into account the multilingual dimension as a fault line of its own, one which cannot be accounted for as a translation between languages or the substitution of one by another; but as confluency/tarafud, a form of confluence and interaction of languages within the same text. (Mohamed-Salah Omri, “North Africa: An Introduction,” in A Companion to African Literatures, ed. Olakunle George [Hoboken, NJ: Wiley–Blackwell, 2021], 110)

  • 15. Abdelwahab Meddeb, “Notes,” in Récit de l’exil occidental par Sohrawardi: traduit et commenté par Abdelwahab Meddeb, calligraphies d’Hassan Massoudy, ed. Abdelwahab Meddeb (Saint-Clément-de-Rivière, France: Fata Morgana, 1993), 22. Unattributed translations are mine. Shihāb al-Dīn Yaḥyá al-Suhrawardī’s text may be read in the original Arabic in Œuvres philosophiques et mystiques, vol. 1, ed. Henry Corbin (Tehran, Iran: Institut franco-iranien, 1952–1970). The first french translation, which Meddeb criticizes, may be consulted in Shihāb al-Dīn Yaḥyá al-Suhrawardī, L’archange empourpré: quinze traités et récits mystiques traduits du persan et de l’arabe, trans. Henry Corbin (Paris: Fayard, 1976).

  • 16. Hoda El Shakry, The Literary Qurʾan: Narrative Ethics in the Maghreb (New York: Fordham University Press, 2020), 22.

  • 17. Abdelfattah Kilito, “La langue du lecteur,” Je parle toutes les langues, mais en arabe (Arles, France: Actes Sud, 2013), 138–139. In contrast to Kilito’s aestheticization and ludic reversal of readerly poetics, Hafid Gafaïti argues for a nuanced, political reading of the Maghreb’s lingual battles, which have simplistically cleaved the Algerian context in particular, producing a Manichaeistic schema that pits “democratic and progressive” francophones against arabophone “barbarians linked to international Muslim fundamentalist terrorism” (Hafid Gafaïti, “The Monotheism of the Other: Language and the De/construction of National Identity in Postcolonial Algeria,” in Algeria in Others’ Languages, ed. Anne-Emmanuelle Berger [Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002], 20).

  • 18. Mildred Mortimer, “Introduction,” in Maghrebian Mosaic: A Literature in Transition, ed. Mildred Mortimer (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2001), 1; and Jane Hiddleston, Writing after Postcolonialism: Francophone North African Literature in Translation (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), 2.

  • 19. René Maran, Batouala: véritable roman nègre (Paris: Albin Michel, 1921); René Maran, Batouala, trans. Adele Szold Seltzer (New York: Thomas Seltzer, 1922). Maran was the first Black writer to win the Prix Goncourt, France’s coveted literary prize, which he earned for Batouala. Critical amnesia notwithstanding, the novel is nevertheless generally considered the foundational text of francophonie and a precursor to Négritude. See “The Negro Who Has Won the Goncourt Prize,” Current Opinion 72, no. 3 (1922): 356–358; Edmond Jaloux, “La vie littéraire: Le Prix Goncourt et le Prix ‘Vie heureuse,’” La Revue hebdomadaire 31, no. 1 (1922): 106–111; Léopold Sédar Senghor, “René Maran, un précurseur de la négritude,” Liberté, I: négritude et humanisme (Paris: Seuil, 1964), 407–411; Chidi Ikonné, “René Maran, 1887–1960: A Black Francophone Writer between Two Worlds,” Research in African Literatures 5, no. 1 (1974): 5–22; Chidi Ikonné, “What Is Batouala?” Journal of African Studies 3, no. 3 (1976): 373–391; Iheanachor Egonu, “Le Prix Goncourt de 1921 et la ‘Querelle de Batouala’,” Research in African Literatures 11, no. 4 (1980): 529–545; Iheanachor Egonu, “Les ‘romans de la jungle’ de René Maran,” Neophilologus 71, no. 4 (1987): 523–530; Keith Walker, Countermodernism and Francophone Culture: The Game of Slipknot (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999), 279; Abiola Irele, “From the French Colonial Novel to the Francophone Postcolonial Novel: René Maran as Precursor,” in French Global: A New Approach to Literary History, ed. Christie McDonald and Susan Suleiman (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), 282–297; Christopher Miller and Christopher Rivers, “Prize Fights: René Maran, Battling Siki, and the Triumph of the Black Man in France, 1922,” Contemporary French Civilization 36, no. 3 (2011): 219–247; Felisa V. Reynolds, “René Maran, Forgotten Father of the Francophone Novel,” Journal of the African Literature Association 7, no. 1 (2012): 55–65; Jane Hiddleston, Decolonising the Intellectual: Politics, Cultures, and Humanism at the End of the French Empire (Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2014), 52; and Ibrahima Diouf, “Un véritable roman barbare? La langue française à l’écoute de la barbarie dans Batouala (1921) de René Maran,” Francofonia, no. 70 (2016), 83–99; see André Breton, “Un grand poète noir,” in Œuvres complètes, vol. 3, ed. Marguerite Bonnet, Philippe Bernier, Marie-Claire Dumas, Étienne-Alain Hubert, and José Pierre (Paris: Gallimard, 1999), 400–408; André Breton, “A Great Black Poet,” in Martinique: Snake Charmer, trans. David W. Seaman, intro. Franklin Rosemont (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008), 84–94; Jean-Paul Sartre, “Orphée noir,” in Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache de langue française, ed. Léopold Sédar Senghor (Paris: Puf, 2011), ix–xliv. Sartre’s legacy as a postcolonialist has been discussed by Kathleen Gyssels, “Sartre postcolonial? Relire Orphée noir plus d’un demi-siècle après,” in “Esclavage moderne ou modernité de l’esclavage?” special issue, Cahier d’études africaines 179–180 (2005). Just as interesting as Breton’s view of Aimé Césaire, if not more, is Suzanne Césaire’s assessment of surrealism in “1943: le surréalisme et nous,” Le Grand camouflage: écrits de dissidence (1941–1945), ed. Daniel Maximin (Paris: Seuil, 2015), 76–83; Suzanne Césaire, “1943: Surrealism and Us,” in The Great Camouflage: Writings of Dissent (1941–1945), ed. Daniel Maximin, trans. Keith L. Walker (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2012), 34–38; Frantz Fanon, L’an V de la révolution algérienne (Paris: Maspero, 1959); For a comparison of the lineages of the Maghrebi literary field as reconfigured by the figures of Taïa and Slimani, see yasser elhariry, “Hyphens & Hymens: francoarab Literature of the Maghreb,” in A Companion to African Literatures, ed. Olakunle George (Newark, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2021), 133–149. For a reading of Bouraoui’s depiction of Maghrebi sexuality, see Mehammed Amadeus Mack, “Uncultured Yet Seductive: The Trope of the Difficult Arab Boy,” in Sexagon: Muslims, France, and the Sexualization of National Culture (New York: Fordham University Press, 2017), 130–179. Denis Provencher’s work has been an indispensable model and guide for inquiry into the rapid developments of gender in the Maghreb, particularly in Queer Maghrebi French: Language, Temporalities, Transfiliations (Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2017), and his volume, coedited with Siham Bouamer, on Abdellah Taïa’s Queer Migrations: Non-places, Affect, and Temporalities (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2021), published shortly after Jean-Pierre Boule’s Abdellah Taïa, la mélancolie et le cri (Lyon, France: Presses universitaires de Lyon, 2020); Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature (London: James Currey, 1986), 3. See also Albert Memmi, Portrait du colonisé précédé de Portrait du colonisateur (1957), pref. Jean-Paul Sartre (Paris: Gallimard, 1985); Albert Memmi, The Colonizer and the Colonized, trans. Howard Greenfeld (London: Earthscan, 2003). For an illuminating critique of how cultural practices under colonialism find an insidious afterlife in translational practices, see Susan Bassnett and Harish Trivedi, eds., Post-colonial Translation: Theory and Practice (London: Routledge, 1999).

  • 20. Alison Rice, Time Signatures: Contextualizing Contemporary Francophone Autobiographical Writing from the Maghreb (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2006), 273.

  • 21. Salah Stétié, Le français, l’autre langue (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 2001), 15–16.

  • 22. On the entwinement of the Islamic and francophone traditions, see Carine Bourget, Coran et tradition islamique dans la littérature maghrébine (Paris: Karthala, 2002); Sura Qadiri, Postcolonial Fiction and Sacred Scripture: Rewriting the Divine? (Oxford: Legenda, 2014); El Shakry, The Literary Qurʾan; Assia Djebar, Loin de Médine (Paris: Albin Michel, 1991); Assia Djebar, Far from Madina, trans. Dorothy S. Blair (London: Quartet Books, 1995). For a comprehensive summary of the book’s receptions, as well as an erudite analysis of the politics of its historical sources, see Hanan Elsayed, “‘Silence’ and Historical Tradition in Assia Djebar’s Loin de Médine,” Research in African Literatures 44, no. 1 (2013): 91–105. In this context, a postcolonial francophone poetics (in distinction from a postfrancophone poetics) “highlights ambivalence,” as “the voice of the text cannot be assumed straightforwardly to be that of the author” (Jane Hiddleston, “Introduction,” in Postcolonial Poetics: Genre and Form, ed. Patrick Crowley and Jane Hiddleston [Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2011], 3). “This use of multiple voices in literary works,” pursues Hiddleston in reference to Clarisse Zimra’s work, is at play in “Assia Djebar’s ‘threshold’ poetics,” for Djebar “creates indeterminacy and prevents the reader from associating the literary text with any specified authorial identity, ideology or argument” (3). Zimra has long paid attention to the plurality of voices in Djebar’s work: see “‘When the Past Answers Our Present’: Assia Djebar Talks About Loin de Médine,” Callaloo, no. 16 (1993): 116–131; “Not So Far from Medina: Assia Djebar Charts Islam’s ‘Insupportable Feminist Revolution’,” World Literature Today, no. 70 (1996): 823–834; “Still Besieged by Voices: Djebar’s Poetics of the Threshold,” Postcolonial Poetics: Genre and Form, ed. Patrick Crowley and Jane Hiddleston, 109–128 (Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2011); Kenneth Harrow, Jonathan Ngaté, and Clarisse Zimra, eds., Crisscrossing Boundaries in African Literatures (Washington, DC: Three Continents Press and the African Literature Association, 1991). Ambivalence and thresholds lay the foundations for a key aspect of francophone poetics, dubbed “performative encounter” by Mireille Rosello,

    a multidimensional event that creates subjects because a protocol of exchange suddenly functions as the precondition of the emergence of the encounter. New subject-positions, a new language, and a new type of engagement appear at the same time, none of the elements depending on the preexistence of the others. (France and the Maghreb: Performative Encounters [Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2005], 2)

  • 23. See Jocelyne Dakhlia, ed., Trames de langues: usages et métissages linguistiques dans l’histoire du Maghreb (Paris: Maisonneuve & Larose, 2004); and Claudia Esposito, Edwige Tamalet Talbayev, and Hakim Abderrezak, eds., “Le Maghreb méditerranéen: littératures et plurilinguismes,” special issue, Expressions Maghrébines 11, no. 2 (2012).

  • 24. Edwige Tamalet Talbayev, “Abdelkébir Khatibi’s Mediterranean Idiom,” in Abdelkébir Khatibi: Postcolonialism, Transnationalism and Culture in the Maghreb and Beyond, ed. Jane Hiddleston and Khalid Lyamlahy (Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2020), 92.

  • 25. Abdelkébir Khatibi, La langue de l’autre (New York: Les Mains Secrètes, 1999), 30; quoted in Alison Rice, “Tireless Translation: Travels, Transcriptions, Tongues and the Eternal Plight of the ‘Étranger professionnel’ in the Corpus of Abdelkébir Khatibi,” Abdelkébir Khatibi: Postcolonialism, Transnationalism and Culture in the Maghreb and Beyond, ed. Jane Hiddleston and Khalid Lyamlahy, 73, 65–87 (Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2020).

  • 26. Rice, “Tireless Translation,” 74.

  • 27. Ferdinand de Saussure, Cours de linguistique générale (Paris: Payot, 2005), 40, 267; and Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics, trans. Wade Baskin, ed. Perry Meisel and Haun Saussy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), 20, 195.

  • 28. Tamalet Talbayev, “Abdelkébir Khatibi’s Mediterranean,” 92.

  • 29. Abdelkébir Khatibi, Amour bilingue (Montpellier, France: Fata Morgana, 1983); reprinted in Abdelkébir Khatibi, Œuvres de Abdelkébir Khatibi, I: Romans et récits (Paris: La Différence, 2008), 205–283; Abdelkébir Khatibi, Love in Two Languages, trans. Richard Howard (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990); and Dominique Combe, “Khatibi and Derrida: A ‘Franco-Maghrebian’ Dialogue,” trans. Jane Hiddleston, in Abdelkébir Khatibi: Postcolonialism, Transnationalism and Culture in the Maghreb and Beyond, ed. Jane Hiddleston and Khalid Lyamlahy, 201, 197–217 (Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2020).

  • 30. Abdellah Taïa, Infidèles (Paris: Seuil, 2012), 128; and Abdellah Taïa, Infidels, trans. Alison S. Strayer (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2016), 103.

  • 31. See yasser elhariry and Rebecca L. Walkowitz, eds., “The Postlingual Turn,” special issue, SubStance 50, no. 1 (2021): 3–9.

  • 32. The translation of the title is Pierre Joris’s, in Habib Tengour, Exile Is My Trade: A Habib Tengour Reader, ed. and trans. Pierre Joris (Boston: Black Widow Press, 2012). Indebted to Mediterranean literary traditions, Tengour’s writing is particularly engaged with Homer, and the title L’épreuve de l’arc directly references the french translation of the title of Book 21 of The Odyssey, where Odysseus bends or strings his bow before slaying Penelope’s suitors. Tengour recounts the episode in the closing pages of L’épreuve de l’arc, as well as in the section “Café Marine (Lettres)” of the poetry collection L’arc et la cicatrice [The Arc and the Scar, 1983] (Paris: La Différence, 2006), 39–55. Odysseus and the motif of the bow recur throughout the collection, and the expression “l’épreuve de l’arc” appears in L’arc et la cicatrice, 42.

  • 33. Habib Tengour, L’épreuve de l’arc: séances 1982/1989 (Paris: Sindbad, 1990), 11.

  • 34. Pierre Joris notes that

    Tengour’s main books [. . .] are the prose narratives Sultan Galiev (1985) and L’Épreuve de l’arc (1990), a cycle started with Le Vieux du montagne (1983). Aware of the question of genre definition, he succeeded in side-stepping the French cartesian (and commercially motivated?) preference for calling any text that is, or looks like prose, a “roman,” i.e. novel, by calling his cycle a “Relation.” The choice of this term is not innocent. The French word “relation” (as does its Spanish homonym) names a genre: the travelogue. But this French word (and genre) is immediately ghosted by its Arabic equivalent: the riḥla. (“Introduction,” 13)

    In postcolonial francophone thought, the relation constitutes a poetics in its own right, codified by Édouard Glissant in Poétique de la relation (Paris: Gallimard, 1990); Édouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation, trans. Betsy Wing (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000).

  • 35. Assia Djebar, Le blanc de l’Algérie (Paris: Albin Michel, 1995); Assia Djebar, Algerian White, trans. David Kelley and Marjolin de Jager (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2000); and Assia Djebar, La disparition de la langue française (Paris: Albin Michel, 2003).

  • 36. Hiddleston, Writing after Postcolonialism, 13.

  • 37. Kateb Yacine, Nedjma (Paris: Seuil, 1956); and Kateb Yacine, Nedjma, trans. Richard Howard, intro. Bernard Aresu (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1991).

  • 38. Danielle Marx-Scouras, review of Charles Bonn, Kateb Yacine, “Nedjma” (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1990), Research in African Literatures 23, no. 2 (1992): 232.

  • 39. Habib Tengour, “Héritages de Kateb?” in Dans le soulèvement, Algérie et retours: jalons: essais (Paris: La Différence, 2012), 99.

  • 40. Habib Tengour, “Héritages de Kateb?” 101.

  • 41. Indeed, Tengour could easily be situated in the company of Algerian new novelists like Assia Djebar, Kateb Yacine, Mohammed Dib, Rachid Boudjedra, Nabil Farès, and Yamina Mechakra, whom Valérie Orlando analyzes in The New Algerian Novel (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2017).

  • 42. A possible reference to Louis Zukofsky’s long poem “A” (New York: New Directions, 2011), which he had begun in 1928 and continued to write until the time of his death in 1978; and El Shakry, The Literary Qurʾan, 20.

  • 43. Tengour, L’épreuve de l’arc, 66–81, 127.

  • 44. Tengour, L’épreuve de l’arc, 54.

  • 45. Tengour, L’épreuve de l’arc, 54; and Alfred Delvau, Dictionnaire d’érotique moderne (Basel, Switzerland: Karl Schmidt, 1864; re-edited Neuchâtel: Imprimerie de la Société des Bibliophiles Cosmopolites, 1874).

  • 46. Tengour, L’épreuve de l’arc, 239.

  • 47. For overviews of the qaṣīdah (plural qaṣāʾid) and discussions of early Arabic poetics, see Arthur John Arberry, The Seven Odes: The First Chapter in Arabic Literature (New York: Macmillan, 1957); Geert Jan Van Gelder, Beyond the Line: Classical Arabic Literary Critics on the Coherence and Unity of the Poem (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1982); Abdelfattah Kilito, L’auteur et ses doubles: essai sur la culture arabe classique (Paris: Seuil, 1985); Abdelfattah Kilito, The Author and His Doubles: Essays on Classical Arabic Culture, trans. Michael Cooperson, foreword by Roger Allen (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2001); Adonis, Introduction to Arab Poetics, trans. Catherine Cobham (London: Saqi Books, 1990); Jaroslav Stetkevych, The Zephyrs of Najd: The Poetics of Nostalgia in the Classical Arabic Nasīb (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993); Suzanne Pinckney Stetkevych, The Mute Immortals Speak: Pre-Islamic Poetry and the Poetics of Ritual (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993); James Montgomery, The Vagaries of the Qasidah: The Tradition and Practice of Early Arabic Poetry (Cambridge, UK: E. J. W. Gibb Memorial, 1997); Suzanne Pinckney Stetkevych, The Poetics of Islamic Legitimacy: Myth, Gender, and Ceremony in the Classical Arabic Ode (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002); Julie Scott Meisami, Structure and Meaning in Medieval Arabic and Persian Poetry: Orient Pearls (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003); and Geert Jan Van Gelder, ed., Classical Arabic Literature: A Library of Arabic Literature Anthology (New York: New York University Press, 2013). The muʿallaqāt (or suspended odes, the most famous of the qaṣāʾid) may be consulted in fresh translation by leading scholars of Arabic including Suzanne Pinckney Stetkevych and others in The Muʿallaqāt for Millennials: Pre-Islamic Arabic Golden Odes (Al-Dhahran, Saudi Arabia: King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, 2020). In french, Jacques Berque’s translation is among the most influential: Les dix grandes odes arabes de l’anté-islam: une nouvelle traduction des mu‘allaqât (Arles, France: Actes Sud, 1996).

  • 48. See Jareer Abu-Haider, “Qifā nabki: The Dual Form of Address in Arabic Poetry in a New Light,” Journal of Arabic Literature 19, no. 1 (1988): 40–48.

  • 49. Tengour, “Faire résonner les langues,” Dans le soulèvement, 132.

  • 50. Tengour, L’arc et la cicatrice, 74; see 79–84 for variations on the aṭlāl or opening motif of the ruins and the halt.

  • 51. The Muʿallaqāt for Millennials, 44.

  • 52. The Muʿallaqāt for Millennials, 45.

  • 53. Imruʾ al-Qays, Trans. Abdelwahab Meddeb, L’exil occidental (Paris: Albin Michel, 2005), 27.

  • 54. Tengour, L’épreuve de l’arc, 38.

  • 55. Stéphane Mallarmé, “Crise de vers,” in Œuvres complètes, vol. 2, ed. Bertrand Marchal (Paris: Gallimard, 2003), 206; and Stéphane Mallarmé, “Crisis of Verse,” in Divagations: The Author’s 1897 Arrangement together with Autobiography and Music and Letters, trans. Barbara Johnson (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2007), 203; my emphasis.

  • 56. Mallarmé, “Crise de vers,” 207; and Mallarmé, “Crisis of Verse,” 205.

  • 57. Qurʾān 59: 22–24, 367. The list of names is reproduced bilingually, to dramatic effect, in Taïa, Infidèles, 125–126; Taïa, Infidels, 100–101.

  • 58. Pierre Joris offers a useful outline of the literary stakes of postindependence Maghrebi cultural production in “On the Nomadic Circulation of Contemporary Poetics,” Justifying the Margins (Cambridge, UK: Salt Publishing, 2009), 7–23.

  • 59. Tengour, “Faire résonner les langues,” 133. For more information on ʿAbbāsid literature, see ʿAbbasid Belles-Lettres, ed. Julia Ashtiany, T. M. Johnstone, J. D. Latham, and R. B. Serjeant (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Suzanne Pinckney Stetkevych, Abū Tammām and the Poetics of the ʿAbbāsid Age (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1991). On Abū Nuwās specifically, see Philip Kennedy, The Wine Song in Classical Arabic Poetry: Abū Nuwās and the Literary Tradition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997); and Philip Kennedy, Abu Nuwas: A Genius of Poetry (Oxford: Oneworld, 2005).

  • 60. Tengour, “Faire résonner les langues,” 133. Tengour’s description of the qaṣīdah here transmutes it into a kind of earworm, as theorized by Peter Szendy in Tubes: la philosophie dans le juke-box (Paris: Minuit, 2008); Peter Szendy, Hits: Philosophy in the Jukebox, trans. Will Bishop (New York: Fordham University Press, 2012). On the “creux de l’oreille” [the hollow, the crook of the ear] in Maghrebi poetry, see yasser elhariry, “Khatibi Misses the Mark,” in “North African Poetry in French,” ed. Thomas C. Connolly, special issue, Yale French Studies 137–138 (2020): 125–146.

  • 61. Lautréamont’s centrality to the poetic revolutions of 19th- and 20th-century vanguardism and literary criticism cannot be overstated: see Julia Kristeva, La révolution du langage poétique: L’avant-garde à la fin du XIXe siècle; Lautréamont et Mallarmé (Paris: Seuil, 1974); Julia Kristeva, Revolution in Poetic Language, trans. Margaret Waller (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984). André Breton’s 1919 re-edition of Lautréamont’s Poésies I [Poems I] (1870) and Poésies II [Poems II] (1870) in the pages of the review Littérature single-handedly remapped Lautréamont within surrealism’s new constellation of poetry and poetics, and Lautréamont plays a central role in Breton’s theory of the poetic image in the first Manifeste du surréalisme [Manifesto of Surrealism] (1924): see André Breton, Manifestes du surréalisme (Paris: Gallimard, 1985), 50; André Breton, Manifestoes of Surrealism, trans. Richard Seaver and Helen R. Lane (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1969), 38. Tengour reprises Aimé Césaire’s discussion of Lautréamont in Discours sur le colonialisme [Discourse on Colonialism] (1950) in a different key: where Césaire was interested in a critique of colonialist–capitalist exploitation, Tengour’s interest in Lautréamont unleashes a mode of lingual reverse colonization. See Aimé Césaire, Discours sur le colonialisme suivi de Discours sur la Négritude (Paris: Présence africaine, 2004), 55–58; and Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism, trans. Joan Pinkham, intro. Robin D. G. Kelly (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000), 65–67.

  • 62. Tengour, L’épreuve de l’arc, 41–42.

  • 63. Comte de Lautréamont, Les chants de Maldoror (Brussels: Albert Lacroix, 1869), 288–292; Comte de Lautréamont, Maldoror (Les chants de Maldoror): Together with a Translation of Lautréamont’s Poésies, trans. Guy Wernham (New York: New Directions, 1965), 261–266. Readers of Lautréamont have long been drawn to his black apocalyptic light: see André Breton, “Préface aux Œuvres complètes de Lautréamont,” in Œuvres complètes by Comte de Lautréamont, ed. Jean-Luc Steinmetz (Paris: Gallimard, 2009), 425–427; Aimé Césaire, “Isidore Ducasse, comte de Lautréamont: La poésie de Lautréamont, belle comme un décret d’expropriation,” in Œuvres complètes by Comte de Lautréamont, ed. Jean-Luc Steinmetz (Paris: Gallimard, 2009), 428–433; and Francis Ponge, “Le dispositif Maldoror-Poésies,” in Méthodes (1961), Œuvres complètes, vol. 1, ed. Bernard Beugnot, Michel Collot, Gérard Farasse, Jean-Marie Gleize, Jacinthe Martel, Robert Melançon, and Bernard Veck (Paris: Gallimard, 1999), 633–635.

  • 64. Tengour, L’épreuve de l’arc, 42; my emphasis.

  • 65. Qurʾān, 433; my emphasis.

  • 66. Tengour, L’épreuve de l’arc, 27; my emphasis. L’épreuve de l’arc is a loud text, sated with sound, gossip, sonic pollution: see 23, 26–27, 32, 41, 62, 66, 73, 97, 101. The Algerian writer Hocine Tandjaoui offers a melomaniac’s account of the colonial soundscape in Clameur (Paris: 108 Edition, 2016); Clamor, trans. Olivia C. Harrison and Teresa Villa-Ignacio (Brooklyn, NY: Litmus Press, 2021).

  • 67. Ziad Elmarsafy, Esoteric Islam in Modern French Thought: Massignon, Corbin, Jambet (London: Bloomsbury, 2021), 82–83.

  • 68. Qurʾān 24:35, 223; and Qurʾān 3:7, 34.

  • 69. The textual sources on Muhammad’s night journey (isrāʾ) and ascension through the heavens (miʿrāj) may be consulted in Michael Sells, “The Mi‘raj (Sacred Cosmology and Mystical Orientation),” in Early Islamic Mysticism: Sufi, Qur’an, Mi‘raj, Poetic and Theological Writings, ed. and trans. Michael Sells (New York: Paulist Press, 1996), 47–55.

  • 70. Suhrawardī, Œuvres philosophiques et mystiques, 289.

  • 71. Suhrawardī, Récit de l’exil occidental, 16–17.

  • 72. Shihāb al-Dīn Yaḥyá al-Suhrawardī, The Mystical and Visionary Treatises of Shihabuddin Yahya Suhrawardi, trans. W. M. Thackston Jr. (London: Octagon, 1982), 105.

  • 73. Meddeb, “Notes,” 22.

  • 74. Abdelwahab Meddeb, Matière des oiseaux (Saint-Clément-de-Rivière, France: Fata Morgana, 2001), 12; my emphasis. The dense nexus or poetic knot formed around ʿAṭṭār’s text is reprised and extended in Stacy Doris, Conference (Bedford, MA: Potes & Poets Press, 2000); and Gabriel Gauthier, Simurgh & Simorgh (Courbevoie, France: Théâtre Typographique, 2016).

  • 75. Meddeb, Matière des oiseaux, 56; my emphasis.

  • 76. Meddeb, Matière des oiseaux, 60; my emphasis.

  • 77. Meddeb, Matière des oiseaux, 76; my emphasis.

  • 78. Lautréamont, Les chants de Maldoror, 157–161; and Lautréamont, Maldoror, 139–144.

  • 79. Tengour, L’épreuve de l’arc, 43; Comte de Lautréamont, Poésies I (Paris: Librairie Gabrie, 1870), 14; and Lautréamont, Maldoror, 318.

  • 80. Lautréamont, Poésies I, 5; and Lautréamont, Maldoror, 305; and Tengour, L’épreuve de l’arc, 70.

  • 81. Tengour, L’épreuve de l’arc, 97.

  • 82. On Lautréamont’s parasitic mode of lyric, see yasser elhariry, “Soft and Sick, Lautréamont,” in “Poetry and Pandemic,” ed. Wai Chee Dimock, special issue, PMLA 136, no. 2 (2021): 300–309.

  • 83. Tengour, L’arc et la cicatrice, 36.

  • 84. Tengour, “Faire résonner les langues,” 133.

  • 85. Tengour, L’arc et la cicatrice, 36.

  • 86. Suzanne Pinckney Stetkevych, “The Muʿallaqah of al-Nābighah al-Dhubyānī: Plea of the Accused,” in The Muʿallaqāt for Millennials, 427.

  • 87. Stetkevych, “The Muʿallaqah of al-Nābighah al-Dhubyānī,” 429.

  • 88. Al-Nābigha al-Dhubyānī, “The Muʿallaqah of al-Nābighah al-Dhubyānī: Plea of the Accused,” in The Muʿallaqāt for Millennials, 434.

  • 89. Al-Nābigha, “The Muʿallaqah,” 435.

  • 90. Al-Nābigha, “The Muʿallaqah,” 440–441.

  • 91. Al-Nābigha, “The Muʿallaqah,” 440.

  • 92. Al-Nābigha, “The Muʿallaqah,” 441.

  • 93. Al-Nābigha al-Dhubyānī, “Supplique,” in Les dix grandes odes arabes de l’anté-islam, trans. Jacques Berque, 75–76; my emphasis. Berque does not include the verse on the rising constellation of stars in his translation.

  • 94. Mallarmé, “Crise de vers,” 208; and Mallarmé, “Crisis of Verse,” 205.

  • 95. Qurʾān 1:6, 3.

  • 96. See, among others, Khalid Lyamlahy, “Moving beyond Mobility: The Aesthetics of Exile and Becoming in Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine’s Légende et vie d’Agoun’chich,” Journal of North African Studies 22, no. 2 (2017): 259–282; Khaïr-Eddine, “Toward an Aesthetics of Self-Sovereignty: The Symbolic of Anti-Authoritarian Discourse in Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine’s Agadir,” in “Performances of Sovereignty in African Dictator-Fiction,” ed. Charlotte Baker, special issue, Research in African Literatures 49, no. 3 (2018): 131–152; Teresa Villa-Ignacio, “Postcolonial Disgust and Poetic Responsibility in Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine’s Nausée noire,” in “North African Poetry in French,” ed. Thomas C. Connolly, special issue, Yale French Studies 137–138 (2020): 171–189; Thomas C. Connolly, “Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine’s Secret Music,” in Sounds Senses, ed. yasser elhariry (Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2021), 79–97; The southern French publisher Éditions des Lisières has been a trailblazer in this regard, preceded only by the global translation workshops organized by the Centre international de poésie Marseille between 2000 and 2016 in Damas, Beirut, Tangier, Algiers, Alexandria, and Ramallah; for example, Salah Jahine, Walid Taher, and Mathilde Chèvre, Roubaiyat: quatrains égyptiens (Marseille, France: Le port a jauni, 2015); and Nathalie Bontemps, Golan Haji, and Philippine Marquier, Mu‘allaqa: un poème suspendu (Marseille, France: Le port a jauni, 2019).

  • 97. Lital Levy, “Accent and Silence in Literary Multilingualism: On Postarabic Poetics,” Dibur 7 (2019).

  • 98. Louis Massignon, “Les ‘Sept Dormants’ apocalypse de l’Islam (1950),” in Opera minora, vol. 3, ed. Youakim Moubarac (Beirut, Lebanon: Dār al-Maʿārif, 1963), 104, 111, 117.

  • 99. Qurʾān, 184–185.

  • 100. Arthur Rimbaud, Les déserts de l’amour (1872), Œuvres complètes, ed. André Guyaux and Aurélia Cervoni (Paris: Gallimard, 2009), 191; Studies of Les déserts de l’amour include André Guyaux, “Les déserts de l’amour,” in Rimbaud: strategie verbali e forme della visione, ed. Stefan Agosti, Giovanna Angeli, Massimo Colesanti, Mario Matucci, Mario Richter, Jacqueline Risset, and Lionello Sozzi (Pisa, Italy: ETS; and Geneva, Switzerland: Slatkine, 1993), 53–64; Yves Reboul, “Sur la chronologie des Déserts de l’amour,” Parade sauvage 8 (1991): 46–52; Christophe Bataillé, Les enseignements du manuscrit des Déserts de l’amour d’Arthur Rimbaud: étude codicologique, DEA (dir. Michel Murat), Université Paris IV-Sorbonne, 2003; Steve Murphy, “Ironie et mélancolie dans Les déserts de l’amour,” in Stratégies de Rimbaud (Paris: Honoré Champion, 2004), 243–259; Christophe Bataillé, “Les déserts de l’amour d’Arthur Rimbaud: codologie, généricité, textualité” (doctoral thesis, dir. Michel Murat, Université Paris IV-Sorbonne, 2010). On Rimbaud’s relationship to the Qurʾān, see Jean-Jacques Lefrère, Arthur Rimbaud (Paris: Fayard, 2001), 14. “Islamic Rimbaud” has been discussed by Salah Stétié in Rimbaud, le huitième dormant (1993), collected with Rimbaud d’Aden (2004) and published as Arthur Rimbaud (Saint-Clément-de-Rivière, France: Fata Morgana, 2006). See also Thomas C. Connolly, “Rimbaud islamique? Le vertige artificiel des «Fleurs»,” Parade Sauvage 28 (2017): 199–218.

  • 101. Mostafa Nissabouri, “Des grottes ouvertes . . .” [Caves opened . . .], trans. Addie Leak and Pierre Joris, For an Ineffable Metrics of the Desert, ed. Guy Bennett (Los Angeles: Otis Books, 2018), 10–11, 16–17.

  • 102. Mostafa Nissabouri, “Plus haute mémoire” [Higher Memory], For an Ineffable Metrics of the Desert, 32–33.

  • 103. Nissabouri, “Plus haute mémoire” [Higher Memory], 32–33.

  • 104. On the poetics of exit in modern and contemporary french verse, see Jean-Marie Gleize, Sorties (Paris: Questions Théoriques, 2009); and Christophe Hanna, Nos dispositifs poétiques (Paris: Questions Théoriques, 2010).

  • 105. As Michel Houellebecq’s novel Soumission (Paris: Flammarion, 2015) demonstrates, France continues to be a nation haunted by the specters of colonialism, gripped by fears of the future that the colonial legacy may one day lead to as Islam continues to ascend and occupy a place of constant negotiation and renegotiation within the sphere of the republic. See Jocelyne Dakhlia, Islamicités (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 2005); Réda Bensmaïa, “Islam,” in The Columbia History of Twentieth-Century French Thought, ed. Lawrence D. Kritzman (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 266–269; See, for instance, one of the installments of the saga: Norimitsu Onishi, “The Mayor, the Teacher and a Fight over a ‘Lost Territory’ of France,” New York Times, June 8, 2021. Onishi’s full coverage of French cultural politics may be consulted on his New York Times page.

  • 106. Richard Serrano, Against the Postcolonial: “Francophone” Writers at the Ends of French Empire (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2005), 175.

  • 107. Omri, “North Africa: An Introduction,” 114; and Hiddleston, Writing after Postcolonialism, 10.

  • 108. Tahar Bekri, Malek Haddad: L’œuvre romanesque; pour une poétique de la littérature maghrébine de langue française (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1986), 188.

  • 109. Among the Maghrebis in this list, Khatibi and Meddeb have been the focus of a particular surge of interest: see “Le cas central d’Abdelwahab Meddeb,” in “Cultures du mysticisme,” ed. yasser elhariry, special issue, Expressions Maghrébines 16, no. 2 (2017): 93–153; Hiddleston and Lyamlahy, Abdelkébir Khatibi; Réda Bensmaïa, ed. “Abdelwahab Meddeb ou des itinéraires d’un ‘passeur de cultures’,” special issue, Expressions Maghrébines 19, no. 2 (2021); and yasser elhariry and Matt Reeck, “Abdelkébir Khatibi: Literature and Theory,” special issue, PMLA 137, no. 2 (2022).

  • 110. Mildred Mortimer, Mouloud Mammeri: écrivain algérien (Sherbrooke, Canada: Naaman, 1982); and Mildred Mortimer, Assia Djebar (Philadelphia: Celfan, 1988).

  • 111. Naget Khadda, ed., Écrivains maghrébins et modernité textuelle (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1995). This volume was the third title to appear as part of Charles Bonn’s series with L’Harmattan, Études littéraires maghrébines, which has published twenty-three titles to date; see Brahim El Guabli, “The ‘Hidden Transcript’ of Resistance in Moroccan Tazmamart Prison Writings,” Arab Studies Journal 22, no. 1 (2014): 170–207; Brahim El Guabli, “Theorizing Intergenerational Trauma in Tazmamart Testimonial Literature and Docu-testimonies,” Middle East—Topics and Arguments 11 (2018): 120–130; Brahim El Guabli, “Narrating Tazmamart: Visceral Contestations of Morocco’s Transitional Justice and Democracy,” Journal of North African Studies 23, no. 1–2 (2018): 208–224; See Hiddleston, Writing after Postcolonialism, 3–5.

  • 112. Mildred Mortimer, Journeys through the French African Novel (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1990), 69.

  • 113. Hakim Abderrezak, Ex-Centric Migrations: Europe and the Maghreb in Mediterranean Cinema, Literature, and Music (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016); and Mortimer, “Introduction,” in Maghrebian Mosaic, 1–10.

  • 114. Mohamed Ridha Bouguerra and Sabiha Bougerra, Histoire de la littérature du Maghreb: littérature francophone (Paris: Ellipses, 2010); and Pierre Joris and Habib Tengour, eds., Poems for the Millennium, Volume 4: The University of California Book of North African Literature (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012). We would do well to situate these efforts within the broader geographic vision proposed by the Women Writing Africa series, notably for our purposes Fatima Sadiqi, Amira Nowaira, Azza El Khloy, and Moha Ennaji, eds., Women Writing Africa: The Norther Region (New York: The Feminist Press at The City University of New York, 2009); “Toward a ‘World-Literature’ in French,” trans. Daniel Simon, in Transnational French Studies: Postcolonialism and Littérature-Monde, ed. Alec G. Hargreaves, Charles Forsdick, and David Murphy (Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2010), 296.

  • 115. Pour une ‘littérature-monde’ en français,” Le Monde, March 15, 2007.

  • 116. Emily Apter, “Afterword: The ‘World’ in World Literature,” in Transnational French Studies, 287. See also Roger Célestin, William J. Cloonan, Eliane DalMolin, and Alec G. Hargreaves, eds., “Littérature-monde: New Wave or New Hype,” special issue, Contemporary French and Francophone Studies 14, no. 1 (2010).

  • 117. Mildred Mortimer, Women Fight, Women Write: Texts on the Algerian War (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019).

  • 118. Winifred Woodhull, Transfigurations of the Maghreb: Feminism, Decolonization, and Literatures (Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press, 1993); Françoise Lionnet, Postcolonial Representations: Women, Literature, Identity (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995); and Valérie Orlando, Nomadic Voices of Exile: Feminine Identity in Francophone Literature of the Maghreb (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1999).

  • 119. Valérie Orlando, Of Suffocated Hearts and Tortured Souls: Seeking Subjecthood through Madness in Francophone Women’s Writing of African and the Caribbean (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2003).

  • 120. Orlando, The New Algerian Novel, xii. See also Patrick Crowley and Megan MacDonald, eds., “The Contemporary Roman Maghrébin: Aesthetics, Politics, Production 2000–2015,” special issue, Contemporary French and Francophone Studies 20, no. 1 (2016).

  • 121. Thomas C. Connolly, ed., “North African Poetry in French,” special issue, Yale French Studies, no. 137–138 (2020).