In the last centuries there were very close tights between the French Empire and its colonies in the Maghreb before and the immigrants and citizens of France after the decolonisation.

What are the most prominent examples of Arab writers who wrote in French or French writers writing about culture and history of Arab countries?

Can we compare this situation with Indian writers who write in English?

  • 1
    Excellent and well thought out question
    – ihtkwot
    Commented Sep 9, 2012 at 13:58

1 Answer 1


There were sadly few writers of the Arab world who wrote in French until 1945. There were, however, lots of French writers who wrote about the Arab culture. My preferred one is René Guénon, also known as Shaykh `Abd al-Wahid Yahya. On the other side, the French culture influenced a lot of francophile writers. In Lebanon nowadays a lot of writers write in French. Here is a list of most influential writers. There are hundreds of other who could be listed. Some of them used a very arabic style to write in French, others were more academic. All are very well-known in France and in their own country:

Arab writers in the French language:

  • Kateb Yacine (Algerian)
  • Tahar Ben Jelloun (Marrocco)
  • Jean and Taos Amrouche (Algerians)
  • Amin Maalouf (Lebanon)
  • Mohammed Dib (Algerian)

Arab writers who were particularly influenced by the French culture:

  • Abdelkader (Ottoman Algeria / Syria / France)
  • Taha Hussein bey (Egypt) (He also translated modern French litterature in Arab)

French writers influenced by the arabic culture:

  • René Guénon
  • Albert Camus
  • Jean Servier (also, he traveled a lot in the Maghreb and his anthropological works on the Berberian culture are fascinating to read and always useful for sociological or ethnicological research, but very hard to find)
  • Charles de Foucauld
  • Louis Massignon
  • Max-Pol Fouchet
  • Gilles Deleuze (philosopher)
  • One thing I like about this answer is how it points out that French is also a world language. Here in the USA I had the interesting experience of seeing two guys I play pick-up soccer with conversing in French like natives, even though neither ever set foot in Europe. One grew up in Algeria, and the other in Cameroon
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Sep 10, 2012 at 21:49
  • Note that Camus could be considered a special case, as he was a French Citizen born and raised in Algeria.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Sep 10, 2012 at 22:08
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    Yes, Camus was a pied-noir (blackfoot), as was Robert Merle for example, and French Algeria is omnipresent as a certain concrete sense of justice that make him very visible, but it's important to say there were 1 million Europeans in Algeria, as the introduction of mechanized and systematic agriculture since 1880, as well as generous subsides from the French Republic drew a lot of (mostly poor) migrants from France, Italy, Malta and Spain (among others) to Algeria.
    – Yves
    Commented Sep 10, 2012 at 22:37

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