The Transcontinental Maghreb: Francophone Literature across the Mediterranean

The Transcontinental Maghreb: Francophone Literature across the Mediterranean

The Transcontinental Maghreb: Francophone Literature across the Mediterranean

The Transcontinental Maghreb: Francophone Literature across the Mediterranean

Synopsis

The writer Gabriel Audisio once called the Mediterranean a “liquid continent.” Taking up the challenge issued by Audisio’s phrase, Edwige Tamalet Talbayev insists that we understand the region on both sides of the Mediterranean through a “transcontinental” heuristic. Rather than merely read the Maghreb in the context of its European colonizers from across the Mediterranean, Talbayev compellingly argues for a transmaritime deployment of the Maghreb across the multiple Mediterranean sites to which it has been materially and culturally bound for millennia.

The Transcontinental Maghreb reveals these Mediterranean imaginaries to intersect with Maghrebi claims to an inclusive, democratic national ideal yet to be realized. Through a sustained reflection on allegory and critical melancholia, the book shows how the Mediterranean decenters postcolonial nation-building projects and mediates the nomadic subject’s reinsertion into a national collective respectful of heterogeneity. In engaging the space of the sea, the hybridity it produces, and the way it has shaped such historical dynamics as globalization, imperialism, decolonization, and nationalism, the book rethinks the very nature of postcolonial histories and identities along its shores.

Excerpt

On El Boramar Square
Your eyes
The night filled with condor songs
Watch the crossing of silence
Pan flute, moon weighing anchor
It is a festival of moorings
A call from the Andes.

—Tahar Bekri, Le Chant du roi errant (The Song of the Errant King)

“On El Boramar Square.” With this opaque Catalan moniker begins the twenty-seventh section of Tunisian Tahar Bekri’s poetic paean to the legendary prince-poet of Arabic letters, Imru’ al-Qais. the phrase is accompanied by a footnote in which Bekri explains his choice of this specific Mediterranean locale: “El Boramar (Sea shore) is a small square in the Catalonian town of Collioure, where an ancient tower built by the Arabs can be found” (45). This “ancient tower,” renamed Torre de la Guardia, or Watchtower, after its incorporation into a sixteenth-century defensive fort on the French-Spanish border, was originally built during the Arab occupation of the town in ad 740. Throughout its tumultuous history of belonging this tower embodies the dynamics of interactions and contestations underpinning the history of the Mediterranean. Collioure, a small French Catalan fishing community located a mere forty kilometers from the village where I grew up, has since gained international fame as the subject of renowned fauvist paintings by artists such as Henri Matisse and André Derain. Partaking in its own modest way in the romantic fascination exerted by the Mediterranean on artists and writers in search of rejuvenation, it has conjured a French Mediterranean redolent of Orientalism and exoticism. Dominant invocations of Collioure have situated it within a European context of humanism and artistic . . .

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