Algerian Literature

Algerian literature has been influenced by many cultures. Among these are ancient Roman, Spanish, French and North African. For more information and facts, read our guide…

Among the best known Algerian authors are St. Augustine, Kateb Yacine and Albert Camus. The latter was a French-Algerian who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. Although most of his works support civil rights for the people who are indigenous to Algeria, he was against Algerian independence from France, a stance that won him much ill will from fellow Algerians.

Kateb Yacine

The most important and influential Maghrebian writer was Kateb Yacine (1929-1989). He attended Koranic schools and then French colonial schools. He was arrested in 1945 while attending a nationalistic rally. He said his time in jail taught him revolutionary theory and a love of poetry.His first book was Nedjma, in which he expresses themes about ancestors, palm trees, steeds and camels that appear throughout his works. He said that all of his work came in one breath, so that each is a continuation of the last.

Nedjma was published in 1956 at the height of the Algerian War. It was not only an important political statement, but the fact that a book written by a Maghrebian author was released in Paris during those times is exceptional.  Many of the characters found in Nedjma go on to be found in his other works of the 1950’s and 1960’s. He had a habit of extracting parts of previous works and printing them in other works.

In the early 1970’s Yacine abandoned writing in French and switched instead to colloquial Arabic. He did do one final play in French celebrating the two hundredth anniversary of the French Revolution towards the end of his life. In 1987, Kateb was awarded the French Grand Prix des Lettres for his contribution to the field of literature.

Postcolonial Literature

With Yacine leading the way, the postcolonial trend in literature turned to writing in Arabic. In 1957, writer Albert Memmi said that francophone writing or Maghrebian literature written in French would disappear when all the graduates of the French Colonial schools were gone. This presently is almost assured in the country of Algeria which is enforcing a policy of Arabization in its schools. Thus, it is much more likely that products of today’s Algerian schools will write in Arabic rather than French.

One notable exception to this is Assia Djbar, a Maghrebian writer who writes in multi languages. Djbar is noted to write in French, but interspersing Arabic phrases along the works. Some say that this is traitorous to the Arabic style.

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