Assia Djebar: Out of Algeria

Assia Djebar: Out of Algeria

Assia Djebar: Out of Algeria

Assia Djebar: Out of Algeria

Excerpt

L’expatriation au présent ne peut être objet d’écriture, ni point
d’appui: elle est son contraire; son mouvement aveugle, ses élans
contrariés et multiples figent l’intérieur de l’être alors que le corps
marche, que le regard quête, que le dos se courbe ou se redresse…

Assia Djebar: Out of Algeria is a book about expatriation, and the constant, necessary revisiting that follows. Algeria remains a focus, an object of desire throughout Djebar’s corpus, but it is also a point of departure, and excludes the writer more often than it grounds or defines her. Her only locus of identification or belonging, Algeria is at the same time figured as broken, war-torn, unfamiliar and irrevocably lost. A potential symbol of difference in contradistinction to colonial influence, Djebar’s Algeria is also diverse, divided and ultimately destroyed. Driven by the urge to recover her country’s history, Djebar repeatedly returns to Algeria’s past only then to interrupt the narrative of its shaky development. The native land is the object of a quest, inciting the writer to invent an identity and a genealogy, but it also resists and eludes that quest. It offers glimmers of familiarity, hints of a home, but under closer inspection shatters and disseminates the cultural security that Djebar strives to create and represent. As the quotation reproduced above suggests, this sense of alienation may not be a straightforward or completed movement of expatriation, but the writing is constantly jolted by its movement, by a sense of doubt concerning its author’s enclosure within a secure set of borders or a defined locus of identification.

At once preoccupied with and severed from her native land, Djebar writes from within this tension. Her novels all set out to tell the story of Algeria’s experiences of colonialism and postcolonialism, but the writing at each juncture falls short of its task. Djebar hopes to trace through the writing process the line of her country’s trajectory, a meaningful narrative of its battles against colonialism, and latterly, resurgent Islamism, but the possibility of a coherent, ordered . . .

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