Kenza Sefrioui: On the Moroccan Book Market

Kenza Sefrioui is a cultural journalist, literary critic and editor. She contributed the literary column at Le Journal Hebdomadaire from 2005-2010 and currently writes for

She earned a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Paris IV-Sorbonne for her research project, titled The Journal Souffles (1966-1973), Hopes Of a Cultural Revolution In Morocco (Éditions du Sirocco, Grand Atlas Prize 2013). 

Sefrioui also co-directed Casablanca œuvre ouverte, an augmented reissue of Casablanca, fragments d’imaginaire, along with a second volume titled Casablanca poème urbain on contemporary writings in Casablanca (Le Fennec, 2013).

A co-founder of Éditions en toutes lettres and a cultural activist, Sefrioui authored an investigation into the book industry in Morocco: Le livre à l’épreuve, les failles de la chaîne au Maroc (En toutes lettres, 2017).

In response to the first question about the challenges she faced and how she adapted, Sefrioui wrote: 

“What characterizes the Moroccan book market is that it still isn’t the center of gravity for Moroccan publishing: most writers who think they have talent take their chance in more structured circuits, from which they hope for better commercial and symbolic recognition. Arabic-speaking Moroccan writers publish in Cairo and Beirut, while those who write in French publish in Paris. However, over the last fifteen years, a new generation of publishers has emerged, with new editorial projects, allowing new voices to exist. The idea of not selling all your rights to a single publisher is gaining ground among authors, who are increasingly keeping their rights for Morocco while signing other contracts for other territories. This is a very good thing.

“Another important change is the decline of French as a publishing language, which was equal to Arabic at the time of independence in 1956 but now represents only about 17% of annual publications. This is perfectly normal, following the Arabization of the education system in the 1980s, but it is leading to a disconnection with elites who are still Francophone, because French has remained a language of power. The linguistic situation is changing, with English making an increasingly significant appearance, but it has not yet become a major language for writing or publication.

“As far as we are concerned at En toutes lettres, which Hicham Houdaïfa and I founded in 2012, we have decided to continue publishing mainly in French, because we specialize in investigative journalism and our books are part of this tradition of the Francophone press. We also want these books to enable elites who don’t speak Arabic to realize what’s going on in the country. Additionally, we want to provide through our books a tool for self-training in French for our fellow citizens who haven’t had access to quality education in this language.”

As for the second question about what brings her happiness, Sefrioui responded: 

“The absence of routine and the constantly new nature of each project! Publishing in our context, with the lack of a healthy market and the multiplication of harmful practices, is a difficult profession. But we chose to focus on its deeply creative nature.

“Today, it is more important for us to develop inclusive publishing. Out of necessity, to consolidate our economic model, we set up a training program for young journalists and civil society actors called Openchabab. This transmits investigative methods (which aren’t taught in journalism schools) as well as the humanist values we feel are important to disseminate. This led us to invite some of our most skilled writer-students to contribute to collective books. We have published four books this way, and helped many young people become authors. This approach, keeping us connected to society’s driving forces and tomorrow’s talents, brings us great joy and purpose.

“Another very important element is the solidarity within the International Alliance of Independent Publishers network, which is truly precious for sharing experiences and thinking together about our important role for biblio-diversity and democracy.”

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