11 Best Moroccan Authors: Delve Into The Rich Culture of Morocco

Discover our guide with the best Moroccan authors with novels about the political and social turmoil they have experienced in their lives.

For history buffs and literary scholars, Moroccan authors keep the secret to unlocking what life is like in this Middle Eastern country. Moroccan literature is a rich and diverse tradition shaped by the country’s various cultural and linguistic influences. Moroccan literature has its roots in the oral tradition of the Berber people, who have lived in Morocco for thousands of years. This oral tradition has been passed down through the generations and has played a central role in developing Moroccan literature.

Over the centuries, Moroccan literature has been influenced by several different cultures and languages, including Arabic, French, and Spanish. The country’s literature has also been influenced by Morocco’s diverse religious traditions, including Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Explore this list of the most impactful Moroccan writers to take a deep dive into Morocco, past, and present.

1. Tahar Ben Jelloun, 1944 –

Tahar Ben Jelloun
Tahar Ben Jelloun via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Tahar Ben Jelloun is a Moroccan writer, artist, poet, and essayist. He is the author of several novels and collections. His work is predominantly in French but is translated into other languages, including English. He is an active member of the French press and writes a daily column for the French Daily, Le Monde. Ben Jelloun is known for his ability to describe love and human rights. His works are often based on the dysfunction of the characters and often contain dream-like states, lyrical language, and poetic images.

Ben Jelloun’s first novel was published in 1973. Since then, he has written nine novels and several other works, including a book called, About My Mother. His novel, La Nuit Sacree, was the first Moroccan work to receive the Prix Goncour, and he was also awarded the International Dublin Literary Award. Ben Jelloun has also been shortlisted for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

2. Laila Lalami, 1981 –

Laila Lalami
Laila Lalami via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Laila Lalami is a Moroccan-American writer whose work explores her country’s history, politics, and literature. Her work has been translated into ten languages. She was born in Rabat, Morocco, and is the author of five novels, including The Other Americans. Lalami studied at the University of Southern California and the University of London. She received a Ph.D. in linguistics and a Licence de lettres from the Moroccan government.

Her novel, The Moor’s Account, won the Hurston & Wright Legacy Award and the Arab-American Book Award. She received a Fletcher Pratt Fellowship in Fiction in 2006 and was awarded the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2006. The Other Americans was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, and Lalami has also published numerous essays. Some of her criticism has appeared in the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.

3. Abdelhak Serhane, 1950 –

Abdelhak Serhane
Abdelhak Serhane via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Abdelhak Serhane was born in the middle Atlas region of Morocco. His work has been praised as being worthy of postmodern literature. Among his many works is L’amour Circoncis, which traces a man’s relationship with his wife through the ages. In addition, he has written Den Omskarne Ljaerligheten, a collection of short stories, and a novel, Le Soleil des Obscurs. Aside from being a writer, he is also a filmmaker, a sound creator, and a musician. His work is full of irony, and he has a knack for linguistic manipulations.

The political situation in Morocco was one of the reasons that Serhane says he left the country in the early 1990s and moved to the United States. He has written extensively about Morocco’s corrupt politicians and continues speaking out against the Moroccan system’s corruption.

He has also received the Prix Francais du Monde Arabe, which honors outstanding authors of French-speaking countries, and the Prix Francophonie, Afrique Mediterrane, in 1999. Looking for more authors from around the globe? Check out our round-up of the best Portuguese authors!

4. Mohammed Berrada, 1938 –

Mohammed Berrada
Mohammed Berrada via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Mohammed Berrada is a writer, translator, and active literary critic. He is the author of six novels and short stories. His novels have been translated into English, and he has also been the International Prize for Arabic Fiction judge. Mohamed Berrada was born in Rabat, Morocco. He is a member of the Union of Moroccan writers and the advisory board of the Moroccan literary magazine, Prologue.

His novel, Far from Clamour, Close to Silence, was long-listed for the 2015 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. His novel, Like a Summer Never to be Repeated, is loosely autobiographical, about the author’s time in Egypt in the 50s and 60s.

5. Leïla Slimani, 1981 –

Leïla Slimani
Leïla Slimani via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Leïla Slimani is a Franco-Moroccan writer and journalist. She studied at the Paris Institute of Political Studies and worked as a Jeune Afrique magazine reporter. She also works for the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. Her first novel, Dans le Jardin de l’Ogre, won the Moroccan La Mamounia literary prize. The book tells the story of a woman who loses control of her life to sexual addiction. It was a massive success, and she was named one of the 50 most influential French people. Subsequently, she was awarded the Prix Goncourt for her second novel, Chanson Douce.

Slimani was born in Rabat, Morocco. Her father, a former president of the CIH Bank, was falsely implicated in a finance scandal. She grew up in a liberal French-speaking family, enrolled in a French school, and studied at the ESCP Europe in Paris. Her most recent work, The Perfect Nanny, was an international bestseller and was included in the New York Times Book Review’s top 10 list of the best books of 2018. It is based on the real-life case of Louise Woodward, a British au pair convicted of involuntary manslaughter of a baby.

6. Malika Oufkir, 1953 –

Malika Oufkir
Malika Oufkir via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Malika Oufkir is a Moroccan writer with only two novels to her name, but her first book, titled Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail, was a New York Times bestseller. In Stolen Lives, Malika Oufkir recounts her family’s experience in prison and how the King of Morocco played a part in their imprisonment. It is her story of how her life shattered, but it also provides a sobering look at the human rights abuses under the rule of Hassan II.

Malika Oufkir was adopted by the King of Morocco when she was five years old. She was a member of the royal family during her childhood and was privileged in many ways. However, her life dramatically changed when her father, General Muhammad Oufkir, attempted to assassinate the King. After her father’s death, Malika and her siblings were imprisoned. They were held in solitary confinement for more than a decade. After being recaptured, they were sent to a desert prison. They were finally released in 1991.

7. Youssef Fadel 1949 – 

Youssef Fadel is a Moroccan playwright, novelist, screenwriter, and writer of television and film, currently based in Marrakesh, Morocco. He was born in Casablanca, Morocco, in 1949. He was imprisoned in the Moulay al-Sheriff prison during the “Years of Lead” in Morocco in the 1970s. Youssef Fadel is one of the most well-known writers in Morocco.

A Rare Blue Bird Flies With Me explores the period of the “Years of Lead.” Youssef Fadel’s novel is a powerful account of this era in Morocco. It focuses on the experiences of Aziz, a man convicted of a plot to overthrow the king. He is held captive in an ancient casbah in the Atlas Mountains.

In the early seventies, there were two attempts to overthrow the King of Morocco, Hassan II. The first attempt was a failed coup, and many participants were executed live on television. The second, less successful attempt was organized by a convoy of army cadets who overran the Skhirat Palace.

8. Abdelfattah Kilito, 1945 –

Abdelfattah Kilito
Abdelfattah Kilito via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Abdelfattah Kilito is a Moroccan writer, literary critic, and Arts professor at Mohammed V University in Rabat. He has also been a lecturer at several universities in Europe. He is the author of several books on Arabic literature. His most recent books include The Clash of Images, which won the PEN Translation Fund Award. The Clash of Images tells the story of a young man who comes of age amid the transition between text and image. 

Kilioto’s writings combine critical analysis and storytelling and have been published in French, Arabic, and English. They are a study of classical Arabic writing, as well as an examination of modern assumptions about each text’s origin. If you enjoyed reading this post, you might enjoy our list of the best Spanish authors. You can also use the search bar at the top right of the page to search for authors in a country or region you are interested in.

9. Mahi Binebine, 1959 –

Mahi Binebine
Mahi Binebine via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Mahi Binebine is a well-known Moroccan painter and novelist. Binebine is the sixth of seven children born to a well-educated family. He left teaching to pursue a career in the arts, studied art and mathematics in Paris, and then went to work in New York.

He has spent a large part of his life between France and Morocco. His paintings are on display in public and private collections in both countries. Mahi Binebine has written six novels. His first novel, Welcome to Paradise, was a best seller. His second is based on the story of his mother. He is also a jack of all trades, having worked in various institutions’ mathematics and art departments.

10. Leila Abouzeid, 1950 –

Leila Abouzeid
Leila Abouzeid via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Leila Abouzeid is a well-known author from Morocco. She is the first female Moroccan writer whose works have been translated into English. She is also a prominent speaker on television and radio and has been in demand as a guest on several programs. Her books are written in Arabic, and she has published a memoir. Her books deal with issues related to gender, relationships, and society. Abouzeid’s novels and short stories are written in a style that uses oral storytelling, a common element in Arabic fiction.

The Last Chapter, reveals the turmoil in her family during the Moroccan independence struggle. She addresses the conflict between traditional values and the demands of modern life. Her memoir also deals with the clash between the traditional and contemporary practices of witchcraft and the shifting relationships between women and men.

11. Souad Mekhennet, 1978 –

Souad Mekhennet
Souad Mekhennet via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Souad Mekhennet is an award-winning journalist. In addition to writing for publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, Mekhennet has written several books, including Islam and The Eternal Nazi. During her time at the Washington Post, she became the newspaper’s first reporter to interview Abdelmalek Droukdal, an Al Qaeda leader. She sent questions to Droukdal and received an audio recording of his answers. Mekhennet also co-wrote a documentary about the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.

She’s also been a visiting fellow at Johns Hopkins University and the Weatherhead Center at Harvard. She is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders. One of her most popular books is I Was Told to Come Alone, the story of her journey behind the lines of Jihad. Looking for more reading material? Check out the best authors of literary realism books!