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 turning plot.
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 State University.
"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 Supplement
"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 women.
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.