The later novels of Tunisian writer Albert Memmi reveal an interest in the visual: Le Scorpion (1969) foregrounds text as visual object, with myriad typefaces and images of calligraphy interspersed throughout the text; Le Désert (1977) is punctuated by a series of engravings that form an iconotextual structure. Despite this profusion of visual material, Memmi does not submit to an ekphrastic impulse; the novels scrupulously avoid commentary on their visual elements. This complex relationship to ekphrasis is troubled by Memmi’s L’Écriture colorée ou Je vous aime en rouge (1986), an essay that proposes a colour-based legend offering readers a ‘map’ to navigate the registers of discourse contained within a text. While Memmi’s system raises more questions than it solves, it offers an opportunity to probe the stability of certain binaries (blindness and sight, and ocularcentrism and ocularphobia). Moreover, it blurs the frontiers between text and image, for écriture colorée also holds the promise of turning the page of text into a modernist painting, with its coloured lines of text morphing into a Mondrianesque tableau such that discourse, figured as blocks and swatches of colour, would find itself resisting verbal representation.


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pp. 317-328
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