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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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5. Modernization and Its Discontents


5Modernization and Its Discontents Introduction During the last fifty years, Algeria has experienced profound social and cultural transformations, the results of the government’s ambitious program of moderniza- tion. It established a new public administration, built new industries, launched an agrarian reform, and expanded the means of communication with the construc- tion of new railroads and modern highways. Public education has received the greatest attention; it receives 40% of the state budget. Before independence, edu- cation was a privilege reserved for Europeans; a meager 18% of Algerian children went to school. All these transformations led to population growth and urban- ization and raised the standard of living of Algerians as well as their expectations. Modernization has never been a painless process anywhere. In Europe, indus- trialization and the break with the Ancien Régime, relying on the principles of the Enlightenment, were achieved at the expense of the colonies and the working class whose miserable living conditions were described by Charles Dickens and Emile Zola. As Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, and the Frankfurt school philosophers Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno pointed out, modernity has its dark side. They warned of the risks of alienation, the breakdown of bonds between individ- uals and society, the commodification of all aspects of life, and the iron-cage of 296 | Algerian Literature bureaucracy. Many contemporary social thinkers such as Jean-François Lyotard remain deeply ambivalent about modernity. The process of modernizing a country in the wake of colonialism and the destructions it brought about is even...

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