The Clash of Images
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. In one chapter the child’s mother forbids her son to read comic books after a bad report card, and the author evokes Don Quixote’s niece, who tries to burn her uncle’s romances and save him from his insane quests. In another, he remembers the first time he saw an image of the Prophet Mohammed, in a French textbook, and the moment he showed the offending picture to his grandmother. The Clash of Images is a celebration of the pleasures of storytelling, a magic lantern that delicately reveals how the world of books intimately connects with the world outside their pages.