Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 February 2021
The ‘North African novel in French’ is a difficult category to circumscribe and define. It immediately announces a tension, juxtaposing writing in the French language on the one hand with a ‘North African’ culture or identity on the other. This tension bears the trace, moreover, of the colonial past, of regimes established in the Maghrebian region which not only expropriated the land from local peoples and seized local resources but also attempted to impose the use of French language, culture, and ideology. Those novelists who wrote or continue to write in French necessarily record the heritage of France’s aggressive empire-building, even while, as ‘North Africans’, they also associate themselves with local, Arab or Berber cultures. The ‘North African novel in French’ is as a result a divided, alienated creature, disconsolately vilifying the culture in which it nonetheless on some level must participate. This chapter explores three key issues raised by these novels, those of ‘insurrection and revolt’, ‘history and fiction’, and ‘crossing borders’. These issues all reveal the multiple influences negotiated by the North African novel in French as well as signalling its unique contribution to the reinvention of the novel in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
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