John Domini at The Quarterly Conversation:
No longer than the lead piece in the latest literary quarterly, yet unearthing a teleology for some of humanity’s oldest stories, The Tongue of Adam sets a reader thinking of noble forebears. W.G. Sebald comes to mind, though there’s no meandering involved, and Anne Carson, though there’s no anachronism or toying with form. Jorge Luis Borges, especially, casts his shadow, given the erudite cool with which this text handles Adam and Eve, Eden and Babel, effortlessly switching between Quranic (as spelled by Kilito) sources and Judeo-Christian. Similar material, in the hands of the great Argentine, resulted in amazing aesthetic objects, and to say the latest from Abdelfattah Kilito doesn’t shrivel in comparison—well, that’s high praise. Even more noteworthy, however, may be what the book accomplishes, at this hour of the world, for Arab civilization in general.
The Tongue of Adam began as a series of lectures at a French university, as one of the author’s colleagues explains in the introduction (sensitive, if at times gushing). Then following seven short chapters—essays, meditations—Kilito himself provides the afterward, revealing that he taught in French, and often French literature, for forty years. Nonetheless this epilog, like his text, makes an argument for his culture of origin.