Mahi Binebine was born in Marrakesh in 1959. From 1980 he studied and subsequently taught mathematics for a number of years in Paris. He lived in New York from 1994 to 1999. Following a short return to Paris, he returned to the city of his birth in 2002.
His career as a writer began in 1992 with the novel »Le Sommeil d’esclave« (1992, tr. The slave girl’s sleep). Binebine’s novels frequently focus on marginalized characters in hopeless situations. He often begins by introducing his characters at a particularly precarious time in their lives; in the ensuing pages the story of the protagonist’s life unfolds through flashbacks and embedded narratives. »Pollen« (2001) for example is about Pierrot, a Frenchman with Kabyle roots, who tries to make his fortune in Morocco and gradually succumbs to drugs and, eventually, madness. »Cannibales« (1999, Eng. »Welcome to Paradise«, 2003) is about the tragic fates – and particular reasons for emigrating – of illegal refugees trying to secretly cross the Gibraltar Straits in tiny boats. »Terre d’ombre brûlée« (2004, tr. Burned umber earth), – inspired by the fate of the painter Gharbaoui – is about a Moroccan painter who freezes to death on a park bench in Paris following the failure of his career in the city. Experiences of loss are also present in »Les Funérailles du lait« (1994, tr. The mortuary of milk), a novel about his mother which touches on the fate of his brother, Aziz Binebine, an unwilling participant in the failed coup attempt in Skhirat in 1971, who was imprisoned for years in Morocco’s notorious Tazmamart desert camp. »Les Étoiles de Sidi Moumen« (2009; Eng. »Horses of God«, 2013), awarded the 2010 Prix littéraire de la Mamounia and made into a feature film in 2011, is narrated from beyond the grave. Through a series of anecdotes the protagonist, Yachine, introduces readers to his impoverished life in Sidi Moumen, a slum on the outskirts of Casablanca. »Le Seigneur vous le rendra« (2013; tr. God will reward you), Binebine’s most recent novel, is a dark thriller about a child growing up without the care and safety of a family.
Binebine’s novels, rich in plot and narrative drive, are mostly committed to a realistic literary aesthetic expressed in a clear, concise voice. They have been translated into various languages, including German and English. He has been awarded the Prix méditerranée and the Prix de l’amitié Franco-Arabe for his literary accomplishments. Moreover, Binebine is a successful and respected painter whose works are also in the collection of the Guggenheim Museum in New York. He lives in Marrakesh.