Assia Djebar in 1992
30 June 1936
|Died||6 February 2015 78) (aged|
|Occupation||novelist, essayist, professor|
|Alma mater||École normale supérieure|
|Notable works||La soif, Les impatients, Les enfants du Nouveau monde, Les alouettes naïves|
|Notable awards||Neustadt International Prize for Literature, Yourcenar Prize|
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." 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.
Djebar was born Fatima-Zehra Imalayen on 30 June 1936 in Cherchell, Algeria, to Tahar Imalhayène and Bahia Sahraoui, a family of Berber origin.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. She attended the École normale supérieure de jeunes filles in 1955, becoming the first Algerian and Muslim woman to be educated at France's most elite schools. Her studies were interrupted by the Algerian War, but she later went on to continue her education in Tunis.
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.
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.
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."
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.and the fifth woman to join the Academy. Djebar was a Silver Chair professor of Francophone literature at New York University.
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.
Djebar died in February 2015, aged 78.
In 1985, she won the Franco-Arab Friendship Prize, for L'Amour la Fantasia.
In 1996, Djebar won the prestigious Neustadt International Prize for Literature for her contribution to world literature.
The following year, she won the Marguerite Yourcenar Prize.
In 1998, she won the International Prize of Palmi.
In 2000, she won the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade.
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.
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The Neustadt International Prize for Literature is a biennial award for literature sponsored by the University of Oklahoma and its international literary publication, World Literature Today. It is considered one of the more prestigious international literary prizes, often compared with the Nobel Prize in Literature. The New York Times called the prize “The Oklahoma Nobel” in 1982 and the prize is sometimes referred to as the “American Nobel”. Since it was founded in 1970, some 30 of its laureates, candidates, or jurors have also been awarded Nobel Prizes. Like the Nobel, it is awarded to individuals for their entire body of work, not for a single one.
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