Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine

Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine was born in 1941 near Tafraout, Southern Morocco, of Berber heritage. One of the major Francophone avant-garde poets of his generation, he is especially well-renowned for his “guerrilla linguistic,” an incendiary, Surrealist-inspired, insurrectionary style of writing. Agadir, his first full-length work, won the Jean Cocteau “Enfants terribles” prize in 1968 and was followed by numerous works of prose, poetry, and drama, including Corps négatif suivi de Histoire d’un bon dieu (1968), Soleil arachnide (1969) Moi, l’aigre (1970), Le Déterreur (1973), Une odeur de mantèque (1976), and Résurrection des fleurs sauvages (1981). One of the co-founders (with Abdellatif Laâbi) of the magazine Anfas/Souffles (Breaths), he lived in self-exile in France from 1965, returning to Morocco only in 1979. He died in Rabat on November 18, 1995, Independence Day in Morocco.


Khaïr-Eddine’s works are characterized by a poetics of violence against all established orders from language to religion and morality. He angrily revolted against the three patriarchs dominating the Moroccan society: God, the king, and the father. His father’s repudiation of his mother provoked the anger and bitterness towards the father and tangible in his works. His subversive and iconoclastic writings are also directed towards traditional literary models whose respect for chronology, accuracy, and punctuation he regards with disdain and virulently attacks, calling his writing “guerilla linguistique” that challenges the hegemony of French language. Exile, wandering, and a propensity to explore dream states predominate as well in his works, illustrating the influence of the French surrealists on Khaïr-Eddine’s writing. Khaïr-Eddine conceives of writing as a space of experimentation, “a social, political and psychoanalytical investigation that heralds the primacy of the image over meaning” and positions the poet as the social and political critic.




Four poems translated by Gaelle Raphael

Three poems from Soleil Arachnide (1969) at Poetry Northwest, translated by Conor Bracken


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