Bir ebruli ülke Cezayir. Renklerinin özünde, en çok sömürge olarak geçirdiği
yılların bıraktığı tortular var. Fransız işgaline girdiği 1830'dan bağımsızlığına
kavuştuğu 1962 yılına kadar süren, Doğu ile Batı'nın kanlı kucaklaşmasına
sahne olan çalkantılı dönemde özgürlük için savaşanlar arasında pek çok
kadın da vardı; ancak bu acılı ülkenin kadınları yaşadıklarını söze ve eyleme
fazlasıyla dökemediler. Cezayirli yazar Asiye Cebar, ülkesine ve sömürgeciliğe
kadınların gözünden bakarak cesur kalemiyle, Cezayirli kadınların belleğini
romanlarına taşıyor. Yüzlerce insanın mağaralarda dumanla boğulduğu, köylerin
yakılıp yıkıldığı bir dönemde oğullarının ve kocalarının acılarını geleceğe
gömerek direnişte yer alan kadınların sözcülüğünü yapıyor. Bunları kendi
yaşamıyla bütünleştiriyor. Günümüzde de çelişkilerin ve çalkantıların eksik
olmadığı gizemli ülke Cezayir'e içeriden bir bakış olan Aşk ve Fantazya,
Cezayir Dörtlemesi'nin birinci kitabı.
Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade
A friend of mine once said that this was her all-time favorite book in French,
and though that might seem a bit hyperbolic, I've come to consider it as
one of my favorites as well (in fact, I ended up writing my Master's thesis
on it, 100 pages, all in French, about this book alone!). The English translation
does lack something, so if you can read French, by all means read the original,
"L'amour, la fantasia". Djebar is a fascinating person- writer, scholar,
and award-winning filmmaker- and this is arguably her best novel. Wrestling
a voice for herself from the colonizer's language (French), she also struggles
with the cultural implications of "unveiling" herself through that same
language to a primarily foreign audience. Her innovative approach to this
problematic is to structure her novel like a musical piece (a "fantasia")
with various "movements" (chapters alternating between her own autobiography,
the history of the fight for control of Algeria, and the "voices" of illiterate
women whose stories she's translated and transcribed). The "fantasia" is
also a traditional North African equestrian ceremony, in which men parade
their horses before going off to battle, and in which women participate
on the sidelines, as it were, cheering on the men by ululating. Without
giving away the full implications of this double analogy (and hence some
key elements of the story), the "fantasia" takes the form, generally, of
both the means by which some Algerian woman are able to speak, as well as
that of their traditional marginalization in the patriarchal society of
Algeria. Musicality, orality, and the written word blend in this highly
original work to portray the author's fragmented sense of self, and the
final product is rendered in a beautiful prose. If you're interested in
sampling some of the finest writing by any French-speaking author today,
or are fascinated by these kinds of postcolonial aesthetic problematics,
read this book! It's a classic!
Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade
This is the first novel written by an Algerian, man or woman, that I
have ever read. I suspect that could be true for many readers. As a new
voice in my world of literature, then, it's an important book. I saw FANTASIA
as a kaleidescope, though, always producing patterns and colors, always
arranged, but not always understandable. I found it very hard to judge this
work because it has many facets, like a shifted kaleidescope.
***** Five stars for the idea or conception of the novel, for language (if
it is well-translated), for the whole effort of bringing a woman's perspective
on colonialism, on revolutionary struggle, and on tradition. Djebar is obsessed
with the "word", especially the written word and its strength. "The word
is a torch; to be held up in front of the wall of separation or withdrawal..."
Words preserve and pass on memories, tragedies, pain, love and lack of love.
Words hold the keys to Algeria's past, the world shattered by the French
invasion and conquest of the mid-19th century, when 25 years of war ruined
the country. But the French conquerers wrote of it, much more than the Algerian
defenders. Their words must be mined for the reality, we must forge the
Algerian view from the 'ore'. Words again unite the Algerian women and men
who fought France in the 1950s. But those very French words, the language
of the conquerers and destroyers, are used to pass on here, in this novel,
the very heartfelt, most intimate emotions of the author. She speaks of
this. Perhaps silence is more powerful, implying resistance. "Writing does
not silence the voice, but awakens it, above all to resurrect so many vanished
sisters." Those are the sisters who didn't know French, who could not speak
out from their cloistered existence.
****For bringing Algerian history to life from an Algerian perspective,
and an Algerian woman's view at that, a woman who, through an educated father
and schooling escaped the enclosed future that awaited her. The struggle,
the never-ending resistance to the occupation of their land.
***The plot of a novel is a fishing line with some attractive hooks for
catching readers. If this line is broken too often, no fish can be caught.
The novel becomes a collection of beautiful fragments, leaving the reader
to imagine what it could be if it were all joined somehow. FANTASIA suffers
from a too intricate sub-division of the voices. It is a layered approach,
the conflict between two worlds---a conflict that entered even into the
author's soul--- it is effective poetically, but not as prose....we lose
track of who is saying what, who is related to whom, where everyone fits
in. Overall Djebar reaches us, but the novel has an abstract quality that
does not emotionally involve us much with any characters.
In Honor of Assia Djebar
Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to deliver this speech
in honour of Assia Djebar, the Algerian author who is about to receive this
years ALOA prize for her novel The Sister (original French title: Ombre
sultane, in Danish Shahrazads søster). The novel was published in Danish
last year as the first of four novels in her Algerian Quartet.
Assia Djebar writes in French, she has been translated into some 20 languages
and lives and works in Paris and in New York, where she is professor of
French and Francophone literature at New York University. Last year Assia
Djebar became the first Muslim, and only the fourth woman ever to enter
the French Academy. Many years ago she was likewise the first Algerian woman
to enter the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris in 1955. When, two years
later in 1957, she published her first novel La Soif, she was described
as the Algerian Francoise Sagan.
Let me be quite honest with you: The fact is that I was not familiar with
Assia Djebars writing before todays prize novel was published here in
Denmark last year. But once I had read her fascinating novel The Sister
from 1987, wonderfully translated into Danish by Nina Gross, I was convinced
of the importance and great significance of her writing. On rereading The
Sister and reflecting on my own immediate fascination with it, I was reminded
of Virginia Woolfs definition of the novel in her essay A room of ones
own, where she states that in the novel life conflicts with something
that is not life.
The aesthetic dimension of Assia Djebars dreamy and rhythmic prose overwhelms
from the very first sentence of Shahrazads søster. You are tempted merely
to read the words and the sentences and to surrender to the sound and rhythm
of the text itself. But in spite of the temptation simply to enjoy the beauty
of the words, this turns out to be impossible. The story itself is so forceful
that it overpowers your aesthetic fascination. The story that is told provides
both insight and knowledge to any reader who wants to understand about the
lives and conditions of Muslim women living in traditional patriarchal cultures.
When reading you are soon forced to forget about anything else but the page
I have read somewhere that Assia Djebar rejects theory as a source of inspiration
to her writing because theory, and I quote
isnt what you write from,
you write from human experience. I assure you that as a reader you instantly
recognize the influence of human experience in her writing. Not only that,
but you are also filled with feelings of optimism and hope that it is in
fact possible for people to overcome and rid themselves of the heritage
and burden of ancient repression. Change is possible.
The novel The Sister begins with an enigmatic presentation of Hajila and
Isma, a strange couple: two women, neither sisters nor rivals, in spite
of the fact that both of them are married to The Man, as their nameless
husband is called throughout the novel. One of the wives, Isma, has chosen
the young woman, Hajila, and lured her into marrying her husband in the
hope that she herself would be set free from the memories of love long lost
and save herself from the emptiness of the present.
When we meet Isma, she is a 40 year old educated Algerian woman who has
left her husband and her two children to live and work in France. Isma is
the storyteller, and Hajila, who has taken her place in the marriage, is
the oppressed woman whose story is told. To begin with the new wife Hajila
accepts her situation, but very slowly she gets the idea of leaving the
apartment during the day. So she starts walking in the streets and for the
first time in her life she removes her veil. When The Man finds out what
is going on, he becomes violent. At the end of the novel the two women meet
in the hamman, the public bath, and Isma gives Hajila her key to the apartment
as a symbolic key to freedom.
At first sight Isma and Hajila are opposites. Isma once loved The Man and
the sensual description of their relationship contrasts sharply with his
violent and insensitive use of Hajilas body. On the other hand there is
a strong connection between the two women: Isma represents Hajilas hope
and longing for a different life, and, on the other hand, Hajila represents
Ismas past and the repressed self she left behind.
With this split between one woman who is free to move, choose and live her
life and another woman who is oppressed, isolated and not supposed to choose
for herself, Assia Djebar creates an image of modern identity: How is it
possible to be who you are, if the prize you have to pay is to break up,
leave behind and destroy the human being you used to be.
In the Algerian Quartet I show who I am, Assia Djebar once said. Let me
add that at the same time she holds up a mirror to us all. In to-days prize
novel we are invited to see ourselves reflected in the gap between what
has been and what is not yet there. In this respect we all share the exile
of Shahrazads sister.
Speech given by Elisabeth Møller Jensen, Director of KVINFO,
in honour of Assia Djebar at the Danish literary Aloa prize ceremony in
Copenhagen in 2007.
- Irmeli Jung
Assia Djebar was born in Algeria of Berber heritage, and was educated in
France and in her homeland. In 1996 she won the prestigious Neustadt Prize
for Contributions to World Literature (previous winners include Max Frisch,
Francis Ponge, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez) and the Yourcenar Prize in 1997.
She is a novelist, scholar, poet, and filmmaker who won the Venice Biennale
Critics Prize (1979). She writes in French and her books have been translated
into many languages. She lives in Paris and in Baton Rouge, where she is
currently Director of the Center for French and Francophone Studies at Louisiana
"Marx . . . wanted to be a 'citizen of the world.' Listening to Assia Djebar's
torn yet majestically flowing voice gives us some sense of what is involved
in that admirable aspiration." - CHRISTOPHER PRENDERGAST in The Times Literary
"Assia Djebar . . . has given weeping its words and longing its lyrics."
- WILLIAM GASS in World Literature Today
Nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature, Assia Djebar is the penname
of Fatima-Zohra Imalayènethe acclaimed Algerian novelist, translator and
filmmakerwho was born in 1936, in the coastal town of Cherchell. Veering
away from St. Augustines Mediterraneanshe explores the complexities of
the world of Muslim women and their struggle for social emancipation.
With Assia Djebar, we experience Franz Fanon and Albert Camusagainst the
subservience of stagnant nationalism. Her delicacy of heart juxtaposes French
colonialismagainst the backdrop of the Algerian War and the voices of Algerian
After Algerias independence, Assia Dejbar was criticized for continuing
to write in French, as opposed to the national language of Arabic. As a
form of disarmament, Djebar began to study Arabic. In her later novels she
uses French to reproduce Arabic rhythms.
Assia Djebars work includes: The Thirst, Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade,
A Sister to Scheherazade, So Vast a Prison, Algerian White, Women of Algiers
in Their Apartment and The Tongues Blood Does Not Run Dry.
Her first film, La Nouba des femmes du Mont Chenoua, won the International
Critics Prize at the 1979 Film Festival in Venice. In 2005, she was inducted
into the Académie Française, the first writer from the Maghreb to enter.
Assia Djebar currently resides in New York and Paris.