What is it about?

The Algerian author Assia Djebar is one of the most studied francophone writers, but she only published in French. However, she made a movie in Arabic. The complicated dynamics between literary and spoken Arabic can help us understand why.

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Why is it important?

The complex colonial relationship between French and Arabic in North Africa is often misunderstood. Yet, the equally complex relationship between literary and spoken Arabic is also poorly understood and understudied. The case of the prominent writer Assia Djebar can help us reach a better understanding of the linguistic dynamics in North African literature.


Books usually exist in one language at a time. When writing stems from a multilingual place, publishing in a single language means something is missing. Assia Djebar is probably the most studied North African author. But most studies of her work occur within French academic frameworks since she only published in French. To fully experience the Algerian dimension of her writing, we must remember that other Algerian languages like Arabic are missing from the picture.

Ziad Bentahar
Towson University

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This page is a summary of: A voice with an elusive sound: aphasia, diglossia, and arabophone Algeria in Assia Djebar'sThe Nouba of the Women of Mount Chenoua, The Journal of North African Studies, March 2016, Taylor & Francis,
DOI: 10.1080/13629387.2016.1150183.
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