Between Cordoba and Marrakech: a barzakh between Ibn Rochd and Averroes

Conference cycle

As part of the activities of the UNESCO-EUROMED Chair "Mediterranean interculturalities", Professor Driss Ksikes, guest of the "Wednesdays of Philosophy" at the Eco-campus, held a conference on April 17 on the theme "Between Cordoba and Marrakech: A barzakh between Ibn Rochd and Averroes".

Writer, essayist and playwright, Mr. Driss Ksikes is active on several fronts. He is the author of numerous stories, essays and plays, and has received several distinctions, notably the Prize for best text for "Pas de memoire, memoire de pas" in 2000 and the Prize for best text for "IL" in 2009. He was also selected as an Arab playwright by Marseille Provence 2013 for his play "N'bury pas trop vite Big Brother" in 2012, and nominated for the prize for best French-speaking playwright (Maison des authors SACD) in 2019, among others.

Through the reading of two extracts from his novel "At the Strait of Averroes", the speaker approached the subject by associating the revitalization of the rationalist thought of Averroes and the harsh adversities experienced by this philosopher, with a reflection which allows us to understand what this implies in the present. This story can be defined as being a crossroads of fiction and reality, which seeks to fill a gap, still gaping, between the adored Averroes and the contested Averroes.

The first excerpt recited from his book focused on the historically attested moment of transfer of the corpse and manuscripts of the philosopher Ibn Rochd from Marrakech to Cordoba. The second, for its part, focused on the thought of Averroes from a utopian angle as well as the fictional representation of the Strait of Gibraltar.

When passing from Marrakech to Cordoba, it is imperative to pass through the Strait of Gibraltar, such was the transfer that the bodily and spiritual traces of Ibn Rochd underwent. Following which Mr. Ksikes switched during this conference from fiction to terminology, focusing on the notion of barzakh, via the metaphorization of the strait, which he uses to question the singular journey of the philosopher.  

He demonstrated with clairvoyance how Averroes appropriated Aristotle's heritage to both comment on it, interpret it and make it the foundation of a different way of thinking where rationality and imagination are intimately linked. Thus, he created a break both with the West and with the East.  

Latinized and Christianized, Ibn Rochd was obliterated by the first and disowned by the second. For both of them, he therefore becomes a worrying stranger. But it is because of this very fact, these cruel misunderstandings, that it deserves today, Ksikes tells us, to be revisited and studied. Because it remains intractable by dogmatic theology and impregnable to any ideology.

This meeting was a veritable strait of thought, opening the way to numerous reflections. An enriching and stimulating exchange developed with the audience, thus opening new perspectives for reflection on various notions of philosophy and science, following this conference.