Monday, February 9, 2015


Think about outstanding female writers from north Africa over the years. Chances are at least two female protagonists would spring to mind: the late Alifa Rifaat (from Egypt); and Assia Djebar (from Algeria), who has just died. 

Assia Djebar was recognised for decades as a western-educated Algerian feminist, intellectual and spokesperson for Algerian women. Her body of powerful writing and publications reflect this.

Djebar as a top-notch intellectual ultimately won the Neustadt International Prize for Literature; and also the Yourcenar Prize. Yet she published her significant early works at a very young age, in her very early 20's - works like La Soif (1957) and Les Impatients (1958). Other works include Les Enfants du Nouveau Monde (1962) and Vaste a la Prison (1995). Djebar's works were translated into many international languages.

She was born in Cherchell, near Algiers, in 1936. Her writings were to stamp her out
as essentially a defender of women's rights in her native Algeria. She achieved international renown as an academic, also going on to lecture at New York University.

 Literary pundits, upon hearing of her death, have been expressing admiration and appreciation of her life and work - including the upliftment of women in North Africa in general. Leke Giwa for example states: "Assia Djebar was a brilliant writer, judging from English translations of her work. It has been quite numbing for African and international literature that she and world-class (South African writer and academic) Andre Brink died around the same time at the weekend". 

Jane Hiddleston, writing about Assia Djebar, has said: “(Djebar) is "frequently associated with women's writing movements, her novels are clearly focused on the creation of a genealogy of Algerian women, and her political stance is virulently anti-patriarchal as much as it is anti-colonial,”

Suggested Reading

Islamic Culture and the question of women's human rights in North Africa: a study of short stories by Assia Djebar and Alifa Rifaat. By Naomi E. Nkealah

No comments: