Story-Bearers

Marina Warner

  • Je parle toutes les langues, mais en arabe by Abdelfattah Kilito
    Actes Sud, 144 pp, €19.00, March 2013, ISBN 978 2 330 01634 0

‘I speak all languages but in Yiddish,’ Kafka remarks in his Diaries; and when it came to writing, he might have chosen any one of them, besides German. We now read him in all languages, receiving glimpses, like faraway signals at sea, of the original German, and beyond the German of the other languages that made up Kafka’s mindscape, with Yiddish beating out a bass line, familiar ground. Echoing Kafka, the Moroccan writer and scholar of Arabic literature Abdelfattah Kilito declares ‘I speak all languages but in Arabic,’ in the title of his recent collection of essays. Kilito is a writer who reads (not all do) – and widely, in several languages. He’s an amphibian creature, living in Arabic and French with equal agility, and ambidextrous with it, continuing to use one language or other at will for his critical studies or his ‘récits’ – his gnomic, often poignant memoirs and fictions.

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[*] New York, 464 pp. and 346 pp., £29.99 and £23.99, September 2013 and April, 978 0 8147 6378 2 and 978 0 8147 7194 5.