Notes On French Literary Exoticism

Abdelkebir Khatibi at The Baffler:

The perspective of my inquiry changed over the course of this itinerary: the more I read and explored this so-called exotic literature about different parts of the world (especially East Asia and the Arab world), the more I encountered an abundance of texts of unequal value: while Asia is the object of beautiful texts by Claudel, Perse, Michaux, Barthes, and above all Segalen, and while all this richness set me to dream and to work, I didn’t discover a single valuable text on Black Africa. Gide’s travel diaries on the Congo and Chad don’t amount to an original work, whether in terms of form or of thought on cultural difference. I was almost amused when I realized that the best French text on Africa is Impressions of Africa. But the Raymond Roussel book is completely imagined, built upon a play between two words: billiard (billard) and pillager (pillard). I remind myself: Africa is truly a black continent in this imagination, a sort of unknown planet.

more here.