This year I’ve been wanting to discover more about Algeria, mostly because my granddad was Kabyle and I’ve always felt as if a part of my history had gone missing. Indeed my dad passed away five years ago and had a complicate relationship with his family – his father had to abandon him during the Algerian war of independence – therefore my siblings and I have been raised completely severed from our own family culture and history. I know nothing about Algeria. Nothing, because what I’ve learned through my French education remains… well, I love my country but it doesn’t mean I should forget what France did, don’t you think? French colonized Algeria from 1830 to 1962 and therefore everything I know is somehow tainted by the colonizer’s gaze – and this is not what I’d call knowledge.
That’s why I’ve started compiling lists of books written by Algerian authors I’d want to read, and today I’m going to introduce those I own and intend to read in the next couple of months.
Warning : Most of them have been written in French, but if I know of an English translation I mention it. Note that they’re mostly from Kabyle authors.
Blurb : In this stunning novel, Assia Djebar intertwines the history of her native Algeria with episodes from the life of a young girl in a story stretching from the French conquest in 1830 to the War of Liberation of the 1950s. The girl, growing up in the old Roman coastal town of Cherchel, sees her life in contrast to that of a neighboring French family, and yearns for more than law and tradition allow her to experience. Headstrong and passionate, she escapes from the cloistered life of her family to join her brother in the maquis’ fight against French domination. Djebar’s exceptional descriptive powers bring to life the experiences of girls and women caught up in the dual struggle for independence – both their own and Algeria’s.
Blurb : Assia Djebar, one of the most distinguished woman writers to emerge from the Arab world, wrote Children of the New Worldfollowing her own involvement in the Algerian resistance to colonial French rule. Like the classic film The Battle of Algiers—enjoying renewed interest in the face of world events—Djebar’s novel sheds light on current world conflicts as it reveals a determined Arab insurgency against foreign occupation, from the inside out. However, Djebar focuses on the experiences of women drawn into the politics of resistance. Her novel recounts the interlocking lives of women in a rural Algerian town who find themselves joined in solidarity and empower each other to engage in the fight for independence. Narrating the resistance movement from a variety of perspectives—from those of traditional wives to liberated students to political organizers—Djebar powerfully depicts the circumstances that drive oppressed communities to violence and at the same time movingly reveals the tragic costs of war.
Blurb : This elegantly haunting work of fiction features bookstore owner Boualem Yekker, who lives in a country overtaken by a radically conservative party known as the Vigilant Brothers, a group that seeks to control every aspect of life according to the precepts of their rigid moral theology. The belief that no work of beauty created by humans should rival the wonders of their god is slowly consuming society, and the art once treasured is now despised. Boualem resists the new regime with quiet determination, using the shop and his personal history as weapons against puritanical forces. Readers are taken into the lush depths of the bookseller’s dreams, the memories of his now empty family life, and his passion for literature, then yanked back into the terror and drudgery of his daily routine by the vandalism, assaults, and death warrants that afflict him.
Blurb : Like the autobiographical hero of this, his classic first novel, Mouloud Feraoun grew up in the rugged Kabyle region of French-controlled Algeria, where the prospects for most Muslim Berber men were limited to shepherding or emigrating to France for factory work. While Feraoun escaped such a fate by excelling in the colonial school system–as a student and, later, as a teacher at the Ecole Normale–he remained firmly rooted in Kabyle culture. This dual perspective only enhanced his view, often brutally, of the ravages on his country by poverty, colonial rule, and a world war that descended on Algeria like a great storm.
Blurb : Feraoun lyrically reveals the intricacies of Kabylian life as you learn the histories of the families that share tiny Ighil-Nezman–how they’ve intermarried, fought with each other, planted their fields and cared for their oxen. Part anthropological re-creation of a lost way of life, part tragic love story of a village nearly ripped apart by ancient codes of honor and conflicting allegiances, Land and Blood is a drama played out with huge stakes in a dense, richly rewarding novel memorializing a little-known world in transition.
Blurb : As a boy Younes’ life is irrevocably changed when he leaves his broken home in the Algerian countryside for the colourful and affluent European district of Río Salado. Renamed Jonas, he begins a new life and forges a unique friendship with a group of boys, an enduring bond that nothing – not even the Algerian Revolt – will shake.Yet with the return to Río Salado of Emilie – a beautiful, beguiling girl who captures the hearts of all who see her – an epic love story is set in motion that will challenge the bond between the four friends and force Jonas to choose between two worlds: Algerian or European; past or present; and at last decide if he will surrender to fate or take control of his own destiny.
- L’opium et le bâton [Sadly I didn’t find any English version, please let me know if you’re luckier!]
- L’allumeur de rêves berbères [Sadly I didn’t find any English version, please let me know if you’re luckier!]
- La grande maison [Sadly I didn’t find any English version, please let me know if you’re luckier!]
That’s all for today! In the future I long for more women authors, and also non-francophone ones.
Please feel free to recommend Algerian books to me!