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Algerian Literature

A Reader’s Guide and Anthology


Abdelkader Aoudjit

The only up-to-date and comprehensive text and reader of Algerian literature available in English, Algerian Literature: A Reader’s Guide and Anthology offers the reader a historical and critical overview of the literature from the early twentieth century to the present, introduces Algerian authors, and provides selections from a wide range of their writings, many translated here for the first time. It begins with an overview chapter that charts the evolution of Algerian literature and puts it in its proper historical context, followed by five thematic chapters: decolonization and cultural affirmation, the War of Independence, modernization and its discontents, emigration, and history. The chapters begin with introductions on the themes under discussion and the selections are preceded by biographies of the authors, as well as detailed summaries of the larger works from which they are extracted. Finally, each chapter concludes with a bibliography and sources for readers seeking additional information and insight.

The selections included in Algerian Literature: A Reader’s Guide and Anthology have been carefully chosen to reflect the richness and diversity of Algerian literature. Accordingly, they are extracted from various literary genres: novels, plays, and poems. Furthermore, they are from works that belong to different literary movements: realism, modernism, and postmodernism.

The variety and the outstanding quality of the selections, along with the superb introductions, summaries, and biographies make Algerian Literature: A Reader’s Guide and Anthology an ideal text for courses in Algerian, Francophone, and world literature courses. It will also be of interest to general readers outside the classroom who want to broaden their literary horizons.

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1. Antecedents and Evolution of Algerian Literature


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Algeria has a long history of great literary achievement stretching back to antiquity. Algerians wrote in Greek, Latin, Arabic, and French, and contributed to classical European civilization some of its most illustrious writers: Apuleius (125 AD–180 AD), Augustine (354–430 AD), Arnobius of Sicca (died c. 330 AD), Juba II (52/50 BC–23 AD), Fronton (95 BC–170 BC), Saint Cyprian (200–258 AD), Terrence (195 BC–159 AD), and Tertullian (160–225 AD). In addition to written mainstream literature, Algerians have also produced for centuries in Tamazight,1 a traditional oral literature that includes tales, poems, and oratory.

Of all the invaders who were attracted by Algeria and its riches—it was known as the breadbasket of Rome—Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Ottomans, and French, only the Arabic-speaking Muslims and the French have made a lasting impact on its culture. The former, sweeping out ← 1 | 2 → of the Arabian Peninsula after the death of the prophet Mohamed in 632 AD and conquering the Maghreb2 by the end of the seventh century, spread a new language and a new religion, profoundly changing the lives of its inhabitants.3 The violent encounter with the latter throughout most of the nineteenth and a large portion of the twentieth centuries (1830–1962), which cost Algerians millions of lives and caused an enormous amount of misery, resulted in the acquisition of a new language and new cultural elements.

By contrast, few vestiges of the Greek...

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