Words from the Maghreb: Plural Identities. Maghrebi Writing and Double Genealogy

Meddeb, Abdelwahab
Quaderns Divulgatius, 15 2000

European writers and those of non-European origin who write in European languages, rediscover each other at the point of creation, beyond traditions, in a place that would be the space of reference or, in other words, in the imprint that continues to act within us. Islam and Europe have something in common which functions as an imprint, in a doubly symbolic and spiritual genealogy, capable of situating the process of the imprinting, of the inscription and of the erasure, of the Islamic imprint and the European imprint, within the project of writing.
Some fifteen years ago, I wrote a text entitled The Religion of the Other, a theoretical piece of fiction which juxtaposed the thought of Ibn'Arabí and Ramon Llull on the religion of the Other. In his Llibre del gentil i dels tres savis (Book of the Heathen and the Three Wise Men) Llull gives an honest presentation of other religions. I also demonstrate how the Muslim philosopher dared to touch upon the Trinity and the Incarnation, making them circular, in his Tarjumân al-Ashwâq (The Interpreter of Ardent Desires). Each of these medieval writers visits the setting of the Other, without ever evading what might clash with his own beliefs. Both writers reveal the double reference, writing at the interstice between languages, continents and points of reference.
With Mohammed Bennis, we have had the adventure of translating into Arabic my text Tombeau d'Ibn'Arabí, which was written in French. This text, or the way in which it was written, permits us to discover everything that differentiates a text written in the Arabic of medieval times, with all its rudiments and its figures of speech, and makes us aware of how it might function in another language where such conveyances might end up being totally astonishing. When one writes within an interstitial project, within the space between languages, between cultures, one always has the possibility of extending the field of memory of the language in which one writes, while the other language, the absent language, is involved as an impulse-giving language, as the imprint language. However, what happens when that text of mine goes back into Arabic, when it returns to the linguistic coherence of the text that constituted it, or in other words, the imprint, the poem of Ibn'Arabí? With Mohammed Bennis we tried to find a kind of "purification" of the language, within a very modern language, yet still with the deliberate use of pre-Islamic expressions as a reminder that Arabic did not begin with the Koran.
We resorted to all kinds of deconstruction in order to free the Arabic text from the theocentric horizon that always encircles the language, which was the language used by Ibn'Arabí. Some deviations might imply choices that would indicate spectacular crises of belief for a reader well-versed in the Koran. This has been the work of two poets from inside the Maghrebi melting pot: the fact of freeing a language from its sacredness can give birth to something amazing and, by a simple poetic act, by the endeavour of writing, one can end up making terrifying political choices.

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