Monday, August 20, 2007

Algerian writers index

Mouloud Mammeri was born on the 28th of December 1917 in Kabylia. A patriot who struggled for the independence of Algeria from French Colonization, he also studied in Morocco and in France before becoming director of the Centre de recherches anthropologiques in Algiers. But Mammeri is probably best known as a staunch advocate for cultural pluralism in Algeria and for the struggle for the recognition of the Amazigh culture and language throughout North Africa. Mammeri was a founder of a review, Awal , dedicated to research into Amazigh culture, language and history. His novels include La Colline OublieLe Sommeil du juste (1952), (1955) and l'Opium et le Baton (1965). He also collected the poems and stories of his native region in Contes Berberes de Kabylie and Poemes kabyles anciens (1980).

Abdelhamid Benhedougga was born in 1925 in El Mansoura (Bordj-Bou-Arreridj), and pursued his higher education in Tunisia. He returned to Algeria in 1954 where he taught Arabic literature. In 1955 he left for France where he held odd jobs to earn a living. He retunred to Tunisia in 1958 where he wrote for the radio and press of the FLN. He returned to Algeria in 1962 and has written for the theater, radio and television, including the BBC and Radio Tunisia. His publications include a collection of articles called Al Djazair Bayn El amsi wal youmi (Algeria Between Yesterday and Today, 1958) a collection of poems, Al-Arwah Ash-Shaghira (Empty Souls, 1967) and several novels, most recently Wa Ghadan Yaoum Djadid (Tomorrow is a New Day, 1992). His novel, Je reve d'un monde..., (I Dream of a World) has been published in French translation in number 15-16 of Algerie Litterature / Action

Kateb Yacine--Born August 6, 1929 in Constantine, Kateb Yacine is one of the most respected writers in the Maghreb. His most famous novel is Nedjma, was published in the midst of Algeria's anti-colonial war against the French. It arguably the most important novels in the Francophone Maghrebi tradition. Yacine has described it as "autobiographie au plurielle" in which three narratives, memories of his childhood and his mother, infatuation with his cousin Nedjma and Algerian history. He has also published poetry (Soliloques) and theater (Le Cercle des represailles) and other novels. He died on October 28,1989.

Jean Amrouche (1907-1962) is one of the pioneers of Algerian literature in French. He was born into a Catholic family in the Kabyle mountains. At a certain point the family was forced to emigrate to Tunisia where he was educated and began his career. As a high school teacher in Tunis, Albert Memmi was one of his students. During the Algerian Civil War he saw it as his duty to explain the French to Algerians and Algerians to France. He published his first book or poetry, Cendres in 1934. This, and his second volume, La toile secrete are marked by themes of mysticism and exile. Amrouche was also concerned with the preservation of his Amazigh (Berber) cultural heritage. He collected songs from the Amazigh region of Kabylie in his 1939 book Chants berberes de Kabylie.

Marguerite Taos Amrouche--Born in 1913, Marguerite-Taos is the younger sister of Jean Amrouche. Like her brother, she was concerned with preserving the cultural heritage of the Kabylie. In 1966 she published a collection of tales, poems and proverbs called le Grain magique. She also collected and recorded songs and chants from this culture. She also wrote two novels: l'Amant imaginaire (1975) and an autobiographical novel Jacinthe noire (1947).

Jean Senac
--The child of an unknown father, Jean Senac was born in 1926 to Jeanne Comma in 1926 in a village near Oran. It is said that this status as a "bastard" was the source for his poetic genius and, indeed, Senac frequently uses his quest for identity as a metaphor for Algeria's status as a newly independent nation. This search is most pronounced in Senac's only novel ebauche du Pere, a remarkable autobiographical novel published after Senac was brutally murdered on August 19, 1962.

He was a protege of Albert Camus who became very much a father figure for the young poet, a relationship strained by Senac fervent support for Algerian independence. Senac was an Algerian citizen by choice and his love for the nation is always present in his poetry. Some of his collections are Derision et Vertige, Poemes, and Avant-Corps.

Mohammed Dib is by far Algeria's most prolific writer and a major figure of world literature. His work provides a fascinating, moving picture of Algerian history beginning with a trilogy Algerie which covered the period from 1939-1942. The trilogy includes the novels: La Grande Maison, l'Incendie and Le Metier a tisser. Dib is an innovative writer who often explored experimental techniques. For example,Qui se souvient de la mer is a novel about the war for independence in Algeria, set in a mythical, science fiction like city. In so doing, the novel becomes a compelling allegorical narrative of the specific conflict in Algeria and of the psychology of resistance to oppression.

Dib's other novels include: Le Talisman, La Danse du roi, Habel, and, most recently, Le Desert sans detour. He has also published collections of poetry such as Ombre gardienne; Feu, beau feu and O vive.

Assia Djebar is certainly the best known woman writer (if not the best known overall) of the Maghreb, at least in the West.She taught history for many years at the University of Algiers, and much of work is pervaded by persistent historical questioning. But above all Djebar's work is concerned with the situation of women in Algeria and with giving them the voice that elements in society would have them denied. She is also a prize winning film-maker. Les Enfants du nouveau monde (1962), the first of her works to receive widespread critical acclaim, is a novel which deals with the Algerian anti-colonial war and, in particular, the role women played in it. Femmes d'Alger dans leur appartement (1980) takes its title from Delacroix's famous painting and is made up almost entirely of conversations between women. L'Amour la fantasia (1985) is an extraordinarily complex work which weaves together historical narratives of French colonization and autobiography. In Loin de Medine (1991) she explores the lives of the women in the life of the prophet Mohammed. Her other novels include La Soif (1957), Les Impatients (1958), Les Allouettes naives (1964) and Ombre sultane (1987).

Tahar Ouettar is one of the more inportant figures in Algerian literature written in Arabic. He began his higher studies in Constantine, Tunisia, but left in 1956 to join the Civil Organization of the FLN. After the war he edited periodicals in Tunisia and Algeria. He also served as Controller of the FLN and Director General of Algerian Radio. He has published novels plays and short stories in Arabic. Titles include: al-Laz (The Ace, 1974) 'Urs baghl (The Donkey's Wedding, 1978), Az-Zilzel (The Earthquake, 1974) and al-Shama'a wa'l-dahaliz (The Candle and Dark Tunnels, 1995). He currently resides in Algiers.

Ahlam Mosteghanemi is the author of Dhakirat al-jasad (1985), the first novel published by an Algerian woman in Arabic. In 2000, an English translation bearing the title Memory in the Flesh was published by the American University in Cairo, as a result of the novel receiving the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature. Holder of a B.A. in Arabic literature from the University of Algiers and doctorate in sociology from the Sorbonne, Mosteghanemi has written two novels, two volumes of poetry and has published a collection of essays called Algerie: Femmes et ecritures.

Leila Sebbar--Born and raised in Algeria, Leila Sebbar moved to France at the age of 17. In fact, many of her novels deal with the situation of Algerian women who have immigrated to Europe. Some of the titles which built her reputation are: On tue les petites filles (1980), Des femmes dans la maison (181) and Sherazade (1982).

Rachid Boudjedra--It is said that the publication of Rachid Boudjedra's first novella Repudiation (1969) announced a new generation of Algerian writers. Through a story recounted by a young Algerian to his foreign lover concerning the life of his mother who had been repudiated by his father, Boudjedra questions the values of his traditional society. According to the author, the text is partially autobiographical, stemming from the repudiation of Boudjedra's mother by his father.

Boudjedra's fiction is provocative, experimental and moving. Topographie ideale pour une agression caracterisee, for example, is the story of an illiterate immigrant lost in the Paris metro through which Boudjedra examines complex philosophical and aesthetic issues. FIS de la haine is a work of nonfiction in which Boudjedra examines the roots of the current crisis in Algeria. The books pulls no punches towards the FIS, the West, or anyone else. And yet Boudjedra makes every effort to sort out the bloodthirsty ambitions of the FIS (Islamic Salvation Front) from the more tolerant tradition of Islam, and the ruthless, money-driven character of the West from its noble humanistic tradition. Since 1982 he has written exclusively in Arabic and the issuing French versions of his novels.

Mohamed Sari was born in 1958 in Menacer, in the Cherchell region of Algeria. He and is currently a professor of Arabic literature at the University of Algiers. He has published literary criticism and three novels in Arabic, including As-Sa'ir (1986) and 'ala Djibel Ad-Dahra (The Mountains of Dara, 1988). His newest novel, Le Labyrinthe, has been published in French translation in Algerie Litterature / Action, Nos 41-42.

Tahar Djaout
was one of the first of a far too long string of intellectuals to be killed in the violence that has shaken Algeria since the canceled 1992 elections. One of the men arrested for the assassination allegedly said that Djaout was targeted because, "he wrote too well, he had an intelligent pen, and he was able to touch people; because of this he was a danger to the fundamentalist ideology." Since his assassination, Djaout has become an important symbol for freedom of expression and the movement for a pluralist state in Algeria, but beyond all this, the world lost a phenomenal literary talent when he died.

Djaout was born in Kabylie, (1952) studied mathematics at the university, then became a journalist. As such he was a staunch advocate for democracy. Although he began his literary career in poetry, he is best known for his novels. The three which brought him the most attention are: Les chercheurs d'os , the story of a boy who goes off to search for the remains of his brother after the Algerian war for independence; L' Invention du desert, in which a writer working on a history of the Almohad movement in North Africa confronts the ghost of history, bringing an ancient religious reformer back to life in his mind to confront the street of Paris; and Les Vigiles, the story of a young inventor and a old war veteran who confront the corruption of their society. A posthumous novel, Le Dernier ete de la raison, was published in 1999, in which Djaout imagines life in a state controlled by a fundamentalist government and one individuals resistance to it.

Rachid Mimouni--Decades after Algerian independence Rachid Mimouni's literary production in French shows the incredible ability of Maghrebi writers to use French as a language of artistic creation and expression. Although he died at very young age in his self-imposed exile in Tangiers, Morocco, Mimouni left behind an impressive body of work that grapples with some of the most powerful issues in modern Algerian history. Some of his works are: Le Fleuve detourne (1982), Une paix a vivre (1983), Tombeza (1984), Paris Dakar (Written in collaboration with Leila Sebbar and others) (1987), L'Honneur de la tribu (1989), La Ceinture de l'ogresse (1990), Le Printemps n'en sera que plus beau (1990), De la barbarie en general et de l'integrisme en particulier (1993), La Malediction (1993).

Aissa Khelladi
is a journalist, novelist, playwright and poet who has lived in France since 1994. He has published books on the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, plays, poetry and several novels, most notably Peurs et Mensonges and Rose d'abime, both of which deal insightfully and unflinchingly with the situation in contemporary Algeria. His writing is intense and gripping and often very innovative in its style.

Abdelkader Djemai is a novelist and journalist who was born in Oran in 1948. He was obliged to leave Algeria in 1993. His books include Un ete de cendres, a recit which tells the story of a dispossessed and haunted man who lives in his office after losing his wife and falling out of favor with his superior. It is a personal narrative which gives a glimpse into how one mans deals with the situation in Algeria today. Other titles by Djemaï include Saison de pierres and Memoires de negre.

Malika Mokeddem is also trained as a physician. She was born in 1949 in the Algerian desert and was the eldest of ten children. In 1966 she left Algeria to study medicine in France where she now lives. Her first novel was written while she was practicing medicine in an office she opened in the immigrant quarters of Paris. She is a prize winning author of three novels foreground the situation of Algerian. women. Le siecle des sauterelles is set in the first half of this century, and L'Interdite deals with the rise of fundamentalism.


mary o'donnell said...

This is a very useful site with which to explore some Algerian writers. It's a good introduction. Thank you.
Mary O'Donnell (Ireland)


Please see this Algerian writer who also writes directly in English.


Unknown said...

The link has already expired .
Would you,please,refresh it !
I do need it.
Thank you in advance,