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4. Un-limiting Thought Abdelkebir Khatibi’s thought haunts this project from its first pages. Therefore , it is only fitting that the last chapters be dedicated to direct and sustained engagement with Abdelkebir Khatibi, as a writer and as a thinker. This double engagement is made necessary by Khatibi’s oeuvre, which seldom distinguishes, in clear lines, the literary from the nonliterary. He calls his own literary work ‘‘une écriture pensante’’ (a thinking writing), thus highlighting the conjunction between writing and thinking. I have adopted this framework of ‘‘écriture pensante’’ in my approach to all the texts so far. Yet the question of thinking remains to be explored and thought. This chapter is dedicated to such an exploration. Khatibi is Morocco’s most renowned contemporary thinker and writer. His work, which has been translated into numerous languages, has received critical attention from philosophers and literary critics in his own country and on the international scene, especially in France and among scholars of Francophone literature in the United States. Therefore, his intellectual concerns regarding writing and language, his constant questioning of metaphysics , and his critical engagement with the Islamic traditions are well known, though less so in the English-speaking world due to a lack of translation. Much of the criticism on Khatibi has taken as its central concern the issues of translation, bilingualism, and writing. However, the question of thinking, recurrent in Khatibi’s oeuvre, and the relationship between thinking and literature in his work, have received cursory attention at best. In this chapter, I will turn my attention to the movements of thought in his best-known text, Amour bilingue (Love in Two Languages). I will show how the vicissitudes of thought are marked by the relation between thought and catastrophe, that is, the irruption of an event, the disruption and intensity of which thought cannot register in the narration, except obliquely. This relation between the movements of thought and those of language provide the momentum for Amour bilingue. In this reading, the primary figure of the story, la Bi-langue, becomes the fading and dispersive center PAGE 121 121 ................. 17176$ $CH4 01-15-09 14:19:38 PS 122 Un-limiting Thought of a narration, struggling to sustain the unsustainable and engendering the story of an impossible love and of a failing encounter. However, I will first take a detour from Amour bilingue in order to elucidate the problematic of thought for Khatibi as put forth in his 1981 essay ‘‘Pensée-autre’’ (‘‘Thought-Other’’). This detour is necessitated by direct modes of mutual address between the two texts as well as by the fact that any displacement of thought from the conceptual, or philosophical, register to the literary requires engagement with both these modes of presentation, for it is not given that the confines of these modes of speech are distinguishable . Therefore, when we argue that pensée-autre moves the question of thought from the philosophical to the literary, the terms of the distinction between the two domains must be clarified. In ‘‘Pensée-autre,’’ Abdelkebir Khatibi outlines a way of thinking that challenges and destabilizes the metaphysical tradition that has oriented Maghrebians ’ and Westerners’ thinking about the Maghreb. This metaphysical tradition founds itself on concepts of origin and identity, such as Arab and Islamic, and thereby has positioned the Maghreb opposite a well-defined and identifiable Occident. Ironically, the Maghreb and the Occident share the name of disorientation, or ‘‘sunset.’’ This name refers to both the region , the Maghreb, and to the country of Morocco (al-Maghreb). While discussing the makeup of a Moroccan colonial city in his essay ‘‘A Colonial Labyrinth,’’ Khatibi rather dreamily says: ‘‘Three communities, that is, three gazes graduated according to the principle of light and shade, in a country called one should remember the ‘Sunset.’ I fall asleep in the dreams of this beautiful name’’ (5). Gharb and Maghreb (the West) are also related etymologically to ‘‘strangeness’’ and ‘‘otherness,’’ ghareeb, and ‘‘exile,’’ ghurba. Khatibi’s pensée-autre proposes a different direction for thought, ‘‘a perhaps unheard of thought of difference,’’ insisting that ‘‘such a liberation is rigorously necessary’’ (Maghreb pluriel 21; all translations of this text are mine). He proposes therefore a thought of difference that is not founded in the Islamic or Arab identity, because he considers discourses of identity infected with an obsession with origin: ‘‘Yes, to search for something else in the division of the Arab and Islamic being, and to detach oneself from...


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