Autobiography and Independence

BookAutobiography and Independence

Autobiography and Independence

Self and Identity in North African Writing in French

Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures, 2


April 1st, 2003

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This book offers an in-depth study of the autobiographical writings of four twentieth-century writers from North Africa, Assia Djebar, Mouloud Feraoun, Abdelkébir Khatibi and Albert Memmi, as they explore issues of language, identity and the individual’s relationship to history. The book places these writers in a clearly defined theoretical context, introducing and contextualising each of the four through the application of postcolonial studies and literary theory on autobiography linked to close textual reading of their works. Avoiding both psychoanalytical theory and approaches concerned primarily with the writer’s ‘testimony value’, Kelly concentrates instead on the poetic and literary qualities of each author’s work, dwelling on the politics and poetics of identity, as well as the ethics and aesthetics of this literature. She includes clear discussions of key terms such as ‘postcolonial’, ‘Francophone’, and ‘autobiography’, which current academic discourse has rendered very complex and even opaque. The book includes a fascinating photograph of two stone tablets inscribed with Punic and Numidian scripts, now held in the British Museum, which Assia Djebar writes about at length in one of the texts studied in the book.

Author Information

Debra Kelly is Professor Emerita in French and Francophone Studies at the University of Westminster and is currently Visiting Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Language Acts and Worldmaking at King's College London.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Title Page3
Copyright Acknowledgements8
Introduction: A Place in the Word9
1: Life/Writing in the Colonial and Postcolonial Contexts17
Autobiography, Autobiographical Expression, Fictions of Identity17
Postcolonial Studies, the Postcolonial Subject and Motivated Reading Studies40
2: Mouloud Feraoun: Life Story, Life-Writing, History61
Naming the Poor Man’s Son: Identity and the Colonised Subject in Le Fils du pauvre67
Poverty, Knowledge and Self-Knowledge70
A Dialogue with Self and Others: Lettres à ses amis95
Witnessing History, the Self as Witness: Journal 1955-1962112
3: Albert Memmi: Fictions of Identity and the Quest for Truth139
Negotiating a Jewish Identity: the Stationary Nomad143
Poverty, Self-Knowledge and Political Knowledge in La Statue de sel157
The Self as Writer in Le Scorpion ou la confession imaginaire184
4: Abdelkébir Khatibi: The Deciphering of Memory and the Potential of Postcolonial Identity213
Writing and the Multiple Discourses of Selfhood217
Memory, Myth and the Postcolonial Subject in La Mémoire tatouée229
Writing Strategies and the Deciphering of a ‘Tattooed Memory’245
5: Assia Djebar: History, Selfhood and the Possession of Knowledge256
The (Re-)Possession of Knowledge and the Relationship to History in L’Amour, la fantasia266
Myth, Metaphor and the Power of Language295
Exile, the History of Writing and the Quest for Liberation in Vaste est la prison299
Love and Self-Knowledge301
The History of Writing310
Knowledge and Selfhood318
Conclusion: A Place in the World342