Assia Djebar

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Assia Djebar
Assia Djebar.jpg
Assia Djebar in 1992
BornFatima-Zohra Imalayen
(1936-06-30)30 June 1936
Cherchell, Algeria
Died6 February 2015(2015-02-06) (aged 78)
Paris, France
Occupation novelist, essayist, professor
Nationality Algeria
Alma mater École normale supérieure
Subject Feminism
Notable worksLa soif, Les impatients, Les enfants du Nouveau monde, Les alouettes naïves
Notable awards Neustadt International Prize for Literature, Yourcenar Prize

Signature Assia Djebar (signature).svg

Fatima-Zohra Imalayen (30 June 1936 – 6 February 2015), known by her pen name Assia Djebar (Arabic : آسيا جبار), was an Algerian novelist, translator and filmmaker. Most of her works deal with obstacles faced by women, and she is noted for her feminist stance. She 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." [1] Djebar is considered to be one of North Africa's pre-eminent and most influential writers. She was elected to the Académie française on 16 June 2005, the first writer from the Maghreb to achieve such recognition. For the entire body of her work she was awarded the 1996 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. She was often named as a contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature. [2]

Algeria country in North Africa

Algeria, officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. The capital and most populous city is Algiers, located in the far north of the country on the Mediterranean coast. With an area of 2,381,741 square kilometres (919,595 sq mi), Algeria is the tenth-largest country in the world, the world's largest Arab country, and the largest in Africa. Algeria is bordered to the northeast by Tunisia, to the east by Libya, to the west by Morocco, to the southwest by the Western Saharan territory, Mauritania, and Mali, to the southeast by Niger, and to the north by the Mediterranean Sea. The country is a semi-presidential republic consisting of 48 provinces and 1,541 communes (counties). It has the highest human development index of all non-island African countries.

Feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social gender equality. This includes fighting gender stereotypes and seeking to establish educational and professional opportunities for women that are equal to those for men.

North Africa Northernmost region of Africa

North Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Morocco in the west, to Egypt's Suez Canal and the Red Sea in the east. Others have limited it to top North-Western countries like Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, a region that was known by the French during colonial times as “Afrique du Nord” and is known by all Arabs as the Maghreb. The most commonly accepted definition includes Algeria, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, the 6 countries that shape the top North of the African continent. Meanwhile, “North Africa”, particularly when used in the term North Africa and the Middle East, often refers only to the countries of the Maghreb and Libya. Egypt, being also part of the Middle East, is often considered separately, due to being both North African and Middle Eastern at the same time.


Early life

Djebar was born Fatima-Zohra Imalayen on 30 June 1936 in Cherchell, Algeria, to Tahar Imalhayène and Bahia Sahraoui, a family of Berber origin. [3] She was raised in Cherchell, a small seaport village near Algiers in the Province of Aïn Defla. Djebar's father was an educator, teaching the French language at Mouzaïaville, a primary school she attended. Later, Djebar attended a Quranic private boarding school in Blida, where she was one of only two girls. She studied at Collège de Blida, a high school in Algiers, where she was the only Muslim in her class. [4] She attended the École normale supérieure de jeunes filles in 1955, thus becoming the first Algerian and Muslim woman to be educated at France's most elite schools. [5] Her studies were interrupted by the Algerian War, but she later went on to continue her education in Tunis. [6]

Cherchell Place in Tipaza, Algeria

Cherchell is a town on Algeria's Mediterranean coast, 89 kilometers (55 mi) west of Algiers. It is the seat of Cherchell District in Tipaza Province. Under the names Iol and Caesarea, it was formerly a Phoenician, Carthaginian, and Roman colony and the capital of the kingdoms of Numidia and Mauretania.

Berbers Ethnic group indigenous to North Africa

Berbers, or Amazighs are an ethnic group of several nations indigenous mostly to North Africa and in some northern parts of Western Africa.

Algiers City in Algiers Province, Algeria

Algiers is the capital and largest city of Algeria. In 2011, the city's population was estimated to be around 3,500,000. An estimate puts the population of the larger metropolitan city to be around 5,000,000. Algiers is located on the Mediterranean Sea and in the north-central portion of Algeria.


In 1957, she chose the pen name Assia Djebar for the publication of her first novel, La Soif ("The Thirst"). Another book, Les Impatients, followed the next year. Also in 1958, she and Ahmed Ould-Rouïs began a marriage that would eventually end in divorce. Djebar taught at the University of Rabat (1959-1962) and then at the University of Algiers. [7]

Mohammed V University, in Rabat, Morocco, was founded in 1957 under a royal decree (Dahir). It is the first modern university in Morocco after the University of al-Qarawiyyin in Fez.

University of Algiers

The University of Algiers Benyoucef Benkhedda is a university located in Algiers, Algeria. It was founded in 1909 and is organized into seven faculties.

In 1962, Djebar returned to Algeria and published Les Enfants du Nouveau Monde, and followed that in 1967 with Les Alouettes Naïves. She lived in Paris between 1965 and 1974 before returning to Algeria again. She remarried in 1980 to the Algerian poet Malek Alloula. The couple lived in Paris, where she had a research appointment at the Algerian Cultural Center. [8]

Malek Alloula Algerian poet and writer (1937–2015)

Malek Alloula (1937–2015) was an Algierian poet, writer, editor, and literary critic.

In 1985, Djebar published L'Amour, la fantasia (translated as Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade, Heinemann, 1993), in which she "repeatedly states her ambivalence about language, about her identification as a Western-educated, Algerian, feminist, Muslim intellectual, about her role as spokesperson for Algerian women as well as for women in general." [9]

Heinemann (publisher) publishing house

Heinemann is a publisher of professional resources and a provider of educational services established in 1978 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, as a U.S. subsidiary of Heinemann UK. Heinemann published the first-ever teacher professional book in 1983, and has since expanded to curricular resources, assessment systems, leveled literacy intervention, and Professional Development services. Today, the UK education imprint is owned by Pearson, the UK trade publications are owned by Random House and the US education imprint is owned by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

In 2005, Djebar was elected to France's foremost literary institution, the Académie française, an institution tasked with guarding the heritage of the French language and whose members, known as the "immortals", are chosen for life. She was the first writer from North Africa to be elected to the organization. [10] and the fifth woman to join the Academy. [11] Djebar was a Silver Chair professor of Francophone literature at New York University. [7]

Académie française Pre-eminent council for the French language

The Académie française is the pre-eminent French council for matters pertaining to the French language. The Académie was officially established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII. Suppressed in 1793 during the French Revolution, it was restored as a division of the Institut de France in 1803 by Napoleon Bonaparte. It is the oldest of the five académies of the institute.

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

New York University private research university in New York, NY, United States

New York University (NYU) is a private research university spread throughout the world. Founded in 1831, NYU's historical campus is in Greenwich Village, New York City. As a global university, students can graduate from its degree-granting campuses in NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai, as well as study at its 12 academic centers in Accra, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Florence, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Paris, Prague, Sydney, Tel Aviv, and Washington, D.C.

Djebar was known as a voice of reform for Islam across the Arab world, especially in the field of advocating for increased rights for women. [5]

Djebar died in February 2015, aged 78. [12]


In 1985, she won the Franco-Arab Friendship Prize, for L'Amour la Fantasia. [13]

In 1996, Djebar won the prestigious Neustadt International Prize for Literature for her contribution to world literature. [14]

The following year, she won the Marguerite Yourcenar Prize. [13]

In 1998, she won the International Prize of Palmi. [13]

In 2000, she won the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. [13]


On 30 June 2017 Google dedicated a Doodle to the novelist for the 81st anniversary of her birth. The Doodle reached all the countries of the Arab World. [15]



Works in English

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  1. Hiddleston, Jane. "Assia Djebar: In Dialogue with Feminisms (review)". French Studies: A Quarterly Review. 61 (2): 248–9. doi:10.1093/fs/knm041.
  2. Alison Flood, "Assia Djebar, Algerian novelist, dies aged 78", The Guardian, 9 February 2015.
  3. Combe, Dominique (2010). Asholt, Wolfgang; Calle-Gruber, Mireille; Combe, Dominique, eds. Assia Djebar: littérature et transmission (in French). Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle. p. 280. ISBN   9782878544879.
  4. 1 2 "Assia Djebar", Voices from the Gaps, University of Minnesota. Retrieved 6 October 2013.
  5. 1 2 "Assia Djebar: Algeria's 'immortal' literary hero". Al Jazeera. 30 June 2017.
  6. C. Naylor, Phillip (7 May 2015). Historical Dictionary of Algeria. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 210. ISBN   9780810879195.
  7. 1 2 Christopher John Murray (11 January 2013). Encyclopedia of Modern French Thought. Routledge. p. 181. ISBN   978-1-135-45564-4.
  8. Mildred P. Mortimer (1988). Assia Djebar. CELFAN Editions. p. 7.
  9. Ghaussy, Soheila (1994). "A Stepmother Tongue: "Feminine Writing" in Assia Djebar's Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade". World Literature Today. 68 (3).
  10. MAÏA de la BAUME, "Assia Djebar, Novelist Who Wrote About Oppression of Arab Women, Dies at 78", The New York Times, 13 February 2015.
  11. Jeune Afrique. Cidcom/Le Groupe Jeune Afrique. 2006. p. 16.
  12. "Assia Djebar décédée : Perte d'une intellectuelle majeure". El Watan. 7 February 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2015.(in French)
  13. 1 2 3 4 Chikhi, Beïda (2007). Assia Djebar: histoires et fantaisies (in French). PUPS. p. 186. ISBN   9782840505068.
  14. "1996 Neustadt Prize Laureate - Assia Djebar". World Literature Today. Retrieved 2018-06-29.
  15. "Assia Djebar's 81st Birthday". 30 June 2017. Retrieved 27 December 2017.

Further reading