Politics, Language and Gender in the Algerian Arabic Novel

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Examines the development of the Arabic novel in post-independence Algeria. It focuses on novels by Abdelhamid Benhadouga, al-Tahar Wattar and Rachid Boudjedra during the period 1972-1988, considering the possibilities for critical expression in the state which emerged from colonial rule and anti-colonial struggle. This is the first extended study of Algeria’s post-independence Arabic literature in a European language. It provides an alternative view which helps to contextualize and extend the study of French-language literature from North Africa, and also contributes to the field of Arabic literary studies by extending its focus beyond the eastern part of the Arab world. It is given added significance because the issue of language has been of critical importance within the current conflict in Algeria and the legacy of colonial rule.


“The great achievement of this book is a kind of ‘hermeneutic’ analysis between literature and society. It is a subtle treatment of post-colonial Algerian politics, culture and society, one that both situates the remarkable works under study, and uses them as various media of constructing critical images and reflections of these formations. As such, it is a unique contribution in a field which has been neglected in the English-speaking world, and will contribute to the growing interest in Algeria and the Maghreb countries generally. For the scholars of the Middle East, it opens up vistas of the culture of the Arab West, related to what they study in the East, yet eccentric in relation to it, and illuminating.” – (from the Commendatory Preface) Sami Zubaida, Reader in Sociology, University of London

“In this enlightening study, Debbie Cox takes up the intellectually intriguing topic of fiction writers negotiating the use of Arabic in the new Algerian state and deals with its various complexities thoroughly. She is meticulous in laying out her proposed approach and guides the reader carefully as she first offers the impact of French colonial rule on the use of and values ascribed to Arabic and then provides the post-colonial political and cultural contexts for her astute literary analyses, such as the power issues at play among Arabisation, reformist Islam, and the French-language elite ... will appeal not only to those interested in the Algerian novel of the post-independence period, but also to readers interested in the modern Arabic novel at large, in culturally-prescribed gender roles, in the relationship between religion and society, and, of course, in the interplay among language forms” – Diana Royer, Miami University

Table of Contents

Preface by Sami Zubaida
1. Language and culture under colonial rule
2. Politics, language and gender in post-independence Algeria: Political and economic development post-1962; Arabisation – ideology, practice and implications; Women in post-independence society – symbolic use of women by the state and the left
3. Alternative histories / gendered histories: a study of al-Laz
4. Synthesis from discord: Abdelhamid Benhadouga
5. Tahar Wattar: towards delirium, fantasy and allegory
6. Rachid Boudjedra: from accusation to accommodation
7. Conclusions: critique and conformity Appendix: synopses of the novels
Bibliography; Index

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