Abdelfattah Kilito

Abdelfattah Kilito

Abdelfattah Kilito was born in Rabat, Morocco in 1945. He has received he Great Moroccan Award (1989), the French Academy Award (1996), and the Sultan Al Owais Prize for Criticism and Literature Studies (2006).


The Tongue of Adam

Nonfiction by Abdelfattah Kilito

Translated from the French by Robyn Creswell

In the beginning there was one language—one tongue that Adam used to compose the first poem, an elegy for Abel. “These days, no one bothers to ask about the tongue of Adam. It is a naive question, vaguely embarrassing and irksome, like questions posed by children, which one can only answer rather stupidly.” So begins Abdelfattah Kilito’s The Tongue of Adam, a delightful series of lectures. With a Borgesian flair for riddles, stories, and subtle scholarly distinctions, Kilito presents an assortment of discussions related to Adam’s tongue, including translation, comparative religion, and lexicography: for example, how, from Babel onward, can we explain the plurality of language?…
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The Clash of Images

Fiction by Abdelfattah Kilito

Translated from the Arabic by Robyn Creswell

Abdelfattah Kilito’s The Clash of Images is a sweet, Borgesian mix of bildungsroman memoir, family history, short-story collection, fable, and literary criticism. Written in a graceful and charming style, Kilito’s story takes place in an unnamed coastal city of memories where a child experiences first-hand the cultural clash of text and image in a changing, modern society. The story unfolds in the medina, the msid (or Koranic school), the neighborhood hammam (or bathhouse), summer camp, and the local cinema––canished sites that inspire Kilito’s meditation and eulogy.…
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Abdelfattah Kilito turns his obsession with ‘the fact of language’ into a thrilling tour de force that invites us to rethink the myths of our human origins, leading us into a labyrinthine wonder world of linguistic inquiries.

—Poupeh Missaghi, Asymptote Journal

The Tongue of Adam is a quiet intellectual indictment of racial, ethnic, and national chauvinism, a text which derives an egalitarian beginning to language from the oldest of religious traditions. A brilliant and necessary book.

—Mohamad Saleh, The Culture Trip

Yet his commentary on the age-old debate, though minimal and mostly contained in an afterword, reveals his personal connection to the subject as a writer in both French and Arabic, making the work both poignant and relevant for contemporary readers.

Publishers Weekly

Abdelfattah Kilito’s The Tongue of Adam is the rarest of essays: intensely focused and full of surprises, instructive and illuminating. To read this book is to set out on an astonishing and unique voyage through classical Arabic literature.

—Daniel Heller-Roazen

Borges’s afterglow falls on Kilito’s pages, and he shares the Argentinian’s relish for puzzles, mazes, and riddling forms, as well as a love of pulp on one hand and the rare and raffiné on the other, al-Jahiz’s philosophy of discretion alongside Tintin, Sufi metaphysical lyrics and the Queen of the Serpents’ spells. Kilito is a mandarin who likes comic books.

—Marina Warner, The London Review of Books

One would be hard-pressed to find a Moroccan writer who is more respected by his peers and more appreciated by his readers than Abdelfattah Kilito.

—Laila Lalami, The Nation

Reading Kilito for me has always been a kind of adventure. We normally speak of writing as an adventure, but Kilito dares his reader to travel with him, on a quest to override the boundaries between reality and fiction, between literary criticism and storytelling.

—Elias Khoury
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