Autobiography and Independence

Autobiography and Independence: Self and Identity in North African Writing in French

Volume: 2
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 408
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  • Book Info
    Autobiography and Independence
    Book Description:

    This book offers an in-depth study of the autobiographical writings of four twentieth-century writers from North Africa, Assia Djebar, Mouloud Feraoun, Abdelkébir Khatibi and Albert Memmi, as they explore issues of language, identity and the individual’s relationship to history. The book places these writers in a clearly defined theoretical context, introducing and contextualising each of the four through the application of postcolonial studies and literary theory on autobiography linked to close textual reading of their works. Avoiding both psychoanalytical theory and approaches concerned primarily with the writer’s ‘testimony value’, Kelly concentrates instead on the poetic and literary qualities of each author’s work, dwelling on the politics and poetics of identity, as well as the ethics and aesthetics of this literature. She includes clear discussions of key terms such as ‘postcolonial’, ‘Francophone’, and ‘autobiography’, which current academic discourse has rendered very complex and even opaque. The book includes a fascinating photograph of two stone tablets inscribed with Punic and Numidian scripts, now held in the British Museum, which Assia Djebar writes about at length in one of the texts studied in the book.

    eISBN: 978-1-84631-262-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Copyright Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Introduction: A Place in the Word
    (pp. 1-8)

    This book explores the question of the relationship between the writer’s self and literary expression. The work of each of the four writers studied here provides a space for a meditation on the act of literary creation and on the ways in which that act intervenes in the world. Mouloud Feraoun, Assia Djebar, Albert Memmi and Abdelkébir Khatibi were born in three different countries in North Africa (Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco) during the first half of the twentieth century, and have varied origins: Kabyle, Berber, Sephardi Jew, Arab.² They share a complex relationship to language, since all of them write...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Life/Writing in the Colonial and Postcolonial Contexts
    (pp. 9-52)

    The initial question of defining the status of the texts under analysis here, and therefore of defining some of the aims of this book, is a complex one. The issue of attributing the label ‘autobiography’ is difficult for a variety of reasons, all interlinked and each worthy of discussion in its own right, even though the writers considered here have all, at some point, made explicit the autobiographical nature of the texts analysed here. First, none of the texts that will be discussed in the course of this book can be called an autobiography in the strictest sense of the...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Mouloud Feraoun: Life Story, Life-Writing, History
    (pp. 53-130)

    The publication of Mouloud Feraoun’sLe Fils du pauvre(‘The Poor Man’s Son’) in 1950 is generally recognised as a founding moment in the literary, cultural and political context of North African writing in French. A claim can be made for this text as the first real expression of the voice and experiences of an indigenous Algerian writer as opposed to the writing concerning North Africa produced by the French themselves during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These texts are often described as ‘Orientalist’ (for example the work of Eugène Fromentin and Théophile Gautier) and ‘exotic’ (for example the...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Albert Memmi: Fictions of Identity and the Quest for Truth
    (pp. 131-204)

    The work of Albert Memmi, a Tunisian writer of Jewish origin, is wideranging both in breadth and in time, covering almost half a century of literary production and sociological study. In addition to his creative work –La Statue de sel, 1953 (The Pillar of Salt);Agar, 1955 (Strangers);Le Scorpion, 1969 (The Scorpion);Le Désert, 1977 (The Desert);Le Pharaon, 1988 (The Pharaoh) – he has made, in a series of important essays on various forms of oppression, original contributions to political and sociological thinking with concepts such as le duo andla dépendance, for example inPortrait du colonisé, précédé...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Abdelkébir Khatibi: The Deciphering of Memory and the Potential of Postcolonial Identity
    (pp. 205-247)

    Abdelkébir Khatibi was born in El Jadida, Morocco in 1938 and therefore belongs to the generation of writers that followed the founding texts of postcolonial writing in French that I have previously considered by Mouloud Feraoun and Albert Memmi. In addition to novels and literary criticism, his creative works include plays,La Mort des artistes(‘The Death of the Artists’, 1964) andLe Prophète voilé(‘The Veiled Prophet’, 1979), and poetry, such asLe Lutteur de classe à la manière taoiste(‘The Class Warrior in the Taoist Way’, 1976),De la mille et troisième nuit(‘The Thousand and Third Night’,...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Assia Djebar: History, Selfhood and the Possession of Knowledge
    (pp. 248-333)

    The first of the above statements by Assia Djebar, principally concerning her relationship to language, raises several crucial issues that will be treated during the course of this chapter. Coming to terms with writing in the French language is a recurrent source of reflection for many writers in a colonial and postcolonial context, as we have previously seen. In addition, Djebar takes as reference point here Michel Leiris’s conception of the relationship of the writer to language, as I also did in the first chapter. This conception is typically conveyed by Leiris in word-play that concerns the way in which...

  11. Conclusion: A Place in the World
    (pp. 334-340)

    In the discussion of the texts selected, the emphasis has been on the ways in which each one contributes to a larger life-writing project, and on the ways in which these works explore the relationship of the writer to literary creation and to the world around them. As was suggested in the introduction, in the work of all of these writers there is a meditation on an individual experience and on the relationship of that experience to that of others, leading to diverse forms of creative, and political, intervention. A number of other elements unite these writing projects, which are...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 341-379)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 380-390)
  14. Index
    (pp. 391-400)