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5. Figuring the Wine-Bearer In chapter 2, I opened the question of the relationship between transcendence and the imagination, arguing that the movements of transcendence are related to the distancing dynamics of the subject from itself through thought and imagination. I showed how the very possibility of survival requires this kind of distancing. In chapter 4, I further emphasized the necessity of this distance for the récit by highlighting the genealogical rupture that characterizes la Bi-langue and the story ‘‘L’oiseau conteur,’’ as interpreted by Khatibi in ‘‘La voix du récit.’’ In this chapter, I turn my attention to the mystical tradition of Islam through Abdelkebir Khatibi’s Le livre du sang (The Book of Blood) in which catastrophe is inscribed as the impossible attainment of unity with the Divine. Khatibi’s engagement with this tradition is no secret, as it traverses the entirety of his oeuvre, and neither is this engagement unique to him. Many writers of the Maghreb inscribe Islam in its mystical mode in their work, writers such as Abdelwahab Meddeb of Tunisia, Tahar ben Jelloun of Morocco, Mohammad Dib of Algeria, to name a few. This inscription is never a simple repetition but is a rewriting and rethinking of the tradition itself, every time, in a singular way. Khatibi’s engagement with this tradition is interpretative and affirmative. Distinguishing often between ‘‘mysticism’’ and ‘‘mystical’’ (la mystique), Khatibi conceives of the mystical as a special kind of opening toward the self and the other, an opening that the rules and prescribed structures of mysticism may prohibit. In an interview with Isabelle Larrivée and Junjar Mohammed Seghir, Khatibi hints at this difference: ‘‘The question is not whether I am a mystic or not, but rather how I translate the mystical in my writings, which are far from being a negation of the body’’ (Oeuvre de Abdelkebir Khatibi 38). The mystical, in Khatibi’s understanding, requires a kind of interior experience, which echoes Bataille’s ‘‘expérience intérieure’’ that can only come about in relation to others. The mystical is therefore a relationship between the singular and the communal. In this sense, the mystical indicates the point of passage between the singular and the common, the PAGE 153 153 ................. 17176$ $CH5 01-15-09 14:19:43 PS 154 Figuring the Wine-Bearer singular and the universal. It points to the experience of relationality, without the enclosed structures of identitarian communities in the sense of identities determining themselves through a process of closure.1 Khatibi’s relationship with the mystical is not limited to Islam, but is rather open to other traditions and sites of relationality between the subject and the other where the interior and the exterior pass into each other. These traditions are not limited to the religious domain, but exist as poetic and mythic domains as well. Therefore, while his thinking about mysticism begins with the singularity of the Islamic tradition, it leads to a kind of universality that would put the Islamic mystical tradition in relation to others, thereby opening the mystical in Islam to the outside and the other, breaking down the barriers that would stabilize the identities of the inside and of the outside, of the I and of the other, and so forth. My reading here suggests that Khatibi’s Le livre du sang inscribes a catastrophic dynamic in the heart of mysticism in order to liberate it from its predetermined structures, frameworks of nostalgia , and ethics of mourning and loss, opening the tradition to an affirmative dynamic that celebrates the material and the visible without nostalgia for the immaterial, for the invisible, and for lost unity. The story follows the vicissitudes of a mystic brotherhood’s efforts at turning away from the materiality of the world and the body in order to achieve the goal of unity between the visible and the invisible. Tracing the movements of the récit, I show the ways in which the dynamics of la Bilangue and of pensée-autre, as articulated in the previous chapter, become reinscribed in this text so as to reveal the failures of the transcendental impulse that provides the central thread for the story. The materiality of the body that informed much of the movement in Amour bilingue fills the scene with such insistence here that no transcendental project can erase it. I argue that this insistent weight of the body—primarily cadaverous, because it is both heavy and excessive—as well as the...


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