Abdelwahab Meddeb (born in Tunis, Tunisia in 1946) is a cross-border artist of a kind that is rare in contemporary literature. One of the most prominent French writers of Arab origin, he raises aesthetic and social questions to which there are no easy answers.
In his work, Meddeb deals primarily with the roots and history of Islam, its literatures, its culture and the problems involved in integrating Muslim traditions into the process of the modern age. He constantly criticises anti-democratic tendencies in Islam as well as Western perspectives that polarise and over-simplify. Poetry, novels, essays and academic texts go hand-in-hand in his oeuvre.
Meddeb’s poems, of which a selection has been published in English (Tombeau of Ibn Arabi, Fordham University Press, 2010, translated by Charlotte Mandell), stride through a swathe of image worlds taking in the landscapes of Tunisia as well as the traditions of Eastern and Western literature and philosophical discussions. Motifs and traditions are called up, blurred and transformed in long movements of text.
Meddeb comes from a family of theologians and scriptural scholars at the Zitouna University in Tunis. After studying Art History and Literature, he was a reader in a large Paris publishing house before becoming editor of his own literary series for Editions Sindbad from 1974 to 1988. Since the early 1990s, Meddeb has been devoting himself increasingly to academic interests and has been a guest lecturer at universities and research centres in Geneva, Florence and Paris and at Yale.
Today he lives in Paris and works as a writer and journalist. He is the editor of an inter-cultural journal, dedale, and works for the ‘Cultures d'islam’ programme on the radio station France Culture.