Assia Djebar

Assia Djebar

In our continuing series Throwback Thursday where we shining a light on some of the best writers from a time gone by we focus on Assia Djebar. Assia Djebar was the pen name of Fatima-Zohra Imalayen, an Algerian novelist, translator and filmmaker.

Djebar, who was born on 30 June 1936, was known for her commitment to women’s rights, she was considered one of the most famous and influential writers of the Maghreb in Algeria. The former student of the École normale supérieure de Sèvres wrote the following list of novels;

  • La Soif, 1957 (English: The Mischief)
  • Les impatients, 1958 Les Enfants du Nouveau Monde, 1962 (English: Children of the New World)
  • Les Alouettes naïves, 1967
  • Poème pour une algérie heureuse, 1969 Rouge l’aube
  • L’Amour, la fantasia, 1985 (English: Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade)
  • Ombre sultane 1987 (English: A Sister to Scheherazade)
  • Loin de Médine, (English: Far from Medina)
  • Vaste est la prison, 1995 (English: So Vast the Prison)
  • Le blanc de l’Algérie, 1996 (English: Algerian White)
  • Oran, langue morte, 1997 (English: The Tongue’s Blood Does Not Run Dry: Algerian Stories)
  • Les Nuits de Strasbourg, 1997
  • Femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement (English: Women of Algiers in Their Apartment)
  • La femme sans sépulture, 2002 La disparition de la langue française, 2003
  • Nulle part dans la maison de mon père, 2008

Apart from this impressive body of written work, she produced two feature films La Nouba des femmes du Mont Chenoua (1977) and La Zerda ou les chants de l’oubli (1979).

Most of her works deal with obstacles faced by women, and she is noted for her feminist stance. She is “frequently associated with women’s writing movements, her novels are clearly focused on the creation of a genealogy of Algerian women, and her political stance is virulently anti-patriarchal as much as it is anti-colonial.”

Her work was so highly regarded that there was an international symposium was held in November 2003 at the House of Writers in Paris (proceedings published in 2005). She was then elected at the Académie française to replace Georges Vedel (5th chair) on 16 June 2005; she was the first writer from the Maghreb to achieve such a recognition.

For the entire body of her work she was awarded the 1996 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. With such a large body of work she was always in she was often named as a contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Unfortunately she passed on in Paris on 6 February 2015.