The Other Side of the Mirror
Despite the considerable acclaim that Khatibi’s work has received, critics are frequently challenged to describe it. It is often considered « hybrid, » because it cannot be contained by the genres and categories of thought that we associate with Literature. I will argue that Khatibi’s work is less hybrid than « hermetic, » and that the difficulty felt in classifying or even analyzing his writing, is due to the presence of echoes and traces of archaic traditions. Khatibi devoted years of his life to studying other cultures as well as his own, finding that it was a rich fabric of varied influences, just as he found that other cultures bear material traces of many buried encounters. The influences present in Khatibi’s writing include Sufism, the traditions of Asia, such as the Tao and the Vedas, but also the esoteric sciences originating in Mesopotamia and Egypt that found their way to Greece, and which were revised and translated by Arabs and Eastern Christians. These entered into Europe from Andalusia and also through Italy, under the sponsorship of the Medicis, and contributed substantially to the revolution in the arts and sciences of the Renaissance. These cultures entertained a different relation to signs and images than that which has predominated since the Enlightenment in Europe. They also had a less binary and hierarchised conception of the world and man’s place in it. They imagined the universe as the space of a continuous transformation of diverse elements, a view opposed to that of the rational individual as master of his environment. Ostracized by the Church and the State, they remained in shadow, treated as heresies. I will try to show that many of the unorthodox traits of Khatibi’s thought and writing can be attributed to the influence of these archaic traditions, whose poetic and ethical values have much to teach us in the modern world.
Keywords: Khatibi, postcolonialism, decolonisation, transnationalism, transcolonial, aesthetics, sociology, Islam, Maghreb, Morocco, travel, stranger, art, sign, literature, philosophy, translation, bilingualism, Mediterranean, language, performativity, Palestine, alterity, Derrida, Hassoun, Segalen, Tanizaki, Japan, semiology, carpet, spiritual, poetics, ethics