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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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6. Rethinking History


6Rethinking History Introduction History has always been and continues to be a major concern of Algerian writers. Recent novelists, however, no longer focus on recovering the Algerian past from colonialist degradation and marginalization as was the case in the 1950s. Instead, following Kateb Yacine; Rachid Boudjedra, Tahar Djaout, Waciny Laredj, Assia Djebar, and Amin Zaoui reexamine familiar narratives of Algerian past and their assumptions. These writers revise how the past is understood and how it is used so that it addresses Algerians’ current concerns. Indeed, after the War of Inde- pendence, issues of national origin and identity have become prominent, and a new preoccupation with history developed with different aspects of Algerian past being emphasized, sometimes at the expense of others that are no less important. In the writings of Kateb, Boudjedra, Djaout, Laredj, and Zaoui, critical commen- taries on history and historians, literary creation, and political issues of the day are tightly intertwined. For the authors mentioned above, the one-dimensional, hegemonic, and sim- plistic readings of history that obscure and suppress important elements of the past are dangerous. Their hazards include (1) imprisonment in a mythical past and rigid conservatism (Djebar, Loin de Médine; Far from Medina, 1991); (2) 352 | Algerian Literature the reproduction of the colonialist way of looking at identity in terms of rigid boundaries, origin, authenticity, and closure (Zaoui, Le Dernier Juif de Tamen- tit; The Last Jew of Tementit, 2011); and (3) intolerance (Djaout, L’Invention du desert; The Invention of the Desert, 1987). Indeed,...

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