Mohammed Khair-Eddine

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by Gaelle Raphael

Mohammed Khair-Eddine (1941-1995) is considered one of the most compelling Moroccan writers of the twentieth century. Born and raised in the southern Berber Moroccan town of Tafraout, Khair-Eddine moved to France in 1965. In 1979 he returned to Morocco where he lived until his death in Rabat in 1995. Mohammed Khair-Eddine, along with Abdellatif Laabi and other Moroccan poets, founded the review Souffles in which they articulated “a new Maghrebian aesthetics that would include both a philosophy of action and a poetics of dream,” transcending the colonizer/colonized dialectics on which the previous generation of writers was fixated.[1] Hédi Abdel-Jaouad writes, “Along with the Algerian Kateb Yacine,Khair-Eddine can also be credited with introducing new and original literary techniques to the Maghreb: stream-of-consciousness, splintered persona, multiple perspectives and other techniques of the discontinuity that has become a hallmark of Post-Souffles Maghrebian literature in French."

Khair-Eddine’s works are characterizes 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 Khair-Eddine’s writing. His first major work Agadir (1967), based on his first-hand experience of the earthquake that had destroyed the city in 1960, won him the Jean Cocteaur literary prize “Les Enfants terribles”. He wrote a substantial number of novels and poetry collections that won major literary prizes. Khair-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.[2]

[1] Abdel-Jaouad, Hédi. “Mohammed Khair-Eddine: the Poet as Iconoclast.” Research in African Literatures. 23.3 (1992): 145-150. Web. [2] Ibid.

Four Poems by Mohammed Khair-Eddin

 [Translated by Gaelle Raphael]  


under my nails
jackal of the race of great wickedness
God dies without a spark a log in his arms
between my skin and me
rises high in the vine
and the visages
one by one
all thick
lacquers are poured
all over the walls
a thousand prisons
casbahs unearthed by a hurricane
the eye is missing here
a stiff fist
I cling to nothing
and suddenly the worms
of childhood
creep of green silts
I lie above
abrupt torrent
the lost rose
becomes tongue
then junk
hi hyena
I drink tonight the defended alcohols
fair word
unfair word
sit down
toads along my
eyeglasses shatter as stars
ilke folk dances
ah this South between my stiff legs
this mouth expelled from my saliva
women thus climb the hurdles
veins darkened without bearing
forgotten in some street
under a magician fresco
where to break is to abolish the laws
etractile sea not
simply city without city
and man without man
shadow falling into long chaps
a ship is going to leave the port of  my attachments
what a villain that one who talks about
fireto the black cat popular
for its intimate
and mysterious meow
i stopbe quie
they prepare an ax for my language
they dethrone a king i crush his wealth
i am the black ox you are looking for
evaded from memories in rubble
and torture
whereas earth is no
more earthstone
no more stone
grilled by the cherguis
like dawn that makes your face shine
delirious woman
moaning beast
iacrid standing in the thickness
of my entrails
chewing scrap
negative body
i devastate the rooms
they throw down the cargo of vices
sweat and heat
purulent gaze
i sow
sow again
the waste these
ancient swords
throughout a flight of angry stars
the gentleman feeds on cabinet
she ends with an apostrophe
bangs in the depths of another gentleman
behind meat the bottom of me
standing over me
a satyr escaped from a cold book apparently
wrings my neckmean ember
hi hyena
drink me all
dawn will break in one of my wrinkles
nothing to be done
they go back up
give me your voice sir
I want to hear mine    
a lightning
spiral that soon squeals
all the kids in hell
hyena give me your elastic
sand let’s drink dawn
how double and fresh and slow dawn is
to your nostrils  


*chergui: The east or southeast desert wind in Morocco. 

 [From the collection Soleil arachnide Éditions du Seuil (1969)]  


That one who’s going to be born
(I will call him Alexander!)
will have a bulletproof skin
and a skull of an onyx
and a lamentably beautiful sex
like the hurricane’s grey rose
like Guevara’s signature stamp
that one who was born
will die under the applause
of a crowd that makes love
with safes.
(Gift of the repressed poem)

 [From the collection Soleil Arachnide Éditions du Seuil (1969)]

Swing Plow

When the sea salt seen and reviewed
judiciously by the ruin of your tongue—
hearts open to absent millipedes—
when the manure that feeds your life
when the woman and her retinue of lithobies
by these streets where delirium streams
—skulls shattered against the wall, knives unsheathed
by the silence gorged with laughter
from your head that retains nothing from me but my glimmer!... 
When the city obstructs the sky with the guts
and the vomit of children killed
on the jaundice of my smile—
when I repress your fear
with a comma from which oozes your sour blood!... 
When the country produces its death, standing
on it alone like pomegranate wasps…
when the storm lays down its law to the teapot…
when the wells stink, when najas
drink the mothers’ eye… 
The South bursts into a thousand rapiers
ruffling your nerves…
and the swing plow exults on the flat stone where errs
a people hung to deleterious stars. 
This people, do you know it? No! You have only
glimpsed it overturned by a car.
A woman, thin and beautiful, watched the worker
die… His calves brown and salient
against the light on the blood
that flowed on the pavement. The car shone
under the four o’clock sun. 
The child of the rich played with the river’s mud.
He was happy. The whole summer abused his little and
golden body. 
The child of the poor, who has never crossed the
sang and carved reeds. He paddled and fished
quietly. He was punished. 
The one you love is a carrier of cloves
and nails and rings and night laughter;
a torrent of pebbles rolls in her clear eyes:
she is the indispensable dress of the day. 
I know that your license slipped, nude woman, over you..
at the edge of the waves flapped like obese jellyfish.
I know that Time exists,
wearing sabers, sitting on the skin of bitter peoples.
and this brat who glows on your rampage,
o mother! 
Snakes, scorpions, rats themselves,
all slobbered, stroked my humid wounds. 
My destiny was debated under the grindstone, a crackling
barley was crushed.
And women sang. An old leper told
his memory to the road, “There is nothing beyond
that mountain” 
Later, I discovered the world as it is.


[From the collection Résurrection des fleurs sauvages Éditions Stouky (1981)]    



For Simonne and Jean Lacouture

Open island at the edge of ruins exhaling the grey laughter
of a day turned into sediments of sparks where all the
   dangers are articulated according to a rhythm of
throwing in my begging bowl the last organ pistole[1]
and the countless initials of stars chopped on
the eyes of the lepiotas. The dead memory
digs up and always brings back to itself the plowshare fashioned
in the blood of an ancient Osiris hastening toward
the stretched bed between darkness
and the bright sky of my retina. In the disturbed
the thermometer climbs my buccaneers of wrinkles, is juxtaposed with usurers of nomenclatures         so decried by
   the packed
clotted crowd
   by the resignation befallen to such a crime in a tightening of registers dates flasks rare poisons
when the trees intone the outcries of asylums shedding the world of the great rites fallen in the Acropolis whose underworld my silence eludes.
What’s to be regretted?
The enclosed sea beating like a heart we exhaust?
Or the smokestacks of this madrague perched on the back of a people unarmed but sure to annihilate its cynical king
who is nothing but the clown of laughter users?
The minaret, the crenellated red or purple diadem of the mountain range,
the tower of iron rust, lions,
the lions of red rock abandoned in an Andalusian courtyard,
then the only, the only real scream
of the dismembered dead,
cut up without celebration—hamadas of opprobrium, phosphate, sulfur,and bitter repudiation!
This is the epoch surrounded by and pregnant with perils and obsequiousness! With ruts deleterious, bloody, pounding against my chest the sacramental abjection
where snort the hangmen.
This is the epoch
galvanized by a caricaturish process, stuffed with the feces of acolytes irremediably
   deep in debt, betrayals, pompous massacres, and denials,
slipped in the skin of silent kettledrums.
And far,
far away on a rock marveling at the storm’s
far away childhood reappears, black,
patrolling ceaselessly, ready to set
the most effective traps for this damned spring who
climbs to your forehead like a string of termites,
drills you,
deteriorates you,
far away under the monarchs’ ashen eye,
coat of arms,
annihilates you finally between a caress of
and a burst of machine gun,
far away,
There, the hemp tie!
Here, the wave of bullets!
Haloed with the hoarse snicker of the scimitar and the
Wandering no more in a cage its squalid
but in the quivering circles of radio waves
and on the roughness of a barracks yard
swearing hatred to the presumptuous sun.
The king, little king in truth, leaning to the worst
extremities, hiding under the guise of a reign that
committed suicide,is hated,
because he was born of tribal stupidity and ambition,
of conspiracies perpetrated for long,
the king,
the king no less naked than the slobbery loach glued to me,
to you
my embittered people who count your corpses without howling.


[From the collection Ce Maroc! Éditions du Seuil (1975)]