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Experimental Nations : Or, the Invention of the Maghreb - Reda Bensmaia

Experimental Nations

Or, the Invention of the Maghreb

Paperback Published: 17th March 2003
ISBN: 9780691089379
Number Of Pages: 232

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Jean-Paul Sartre's famous question, "For whom do we write?" strikes close to home for francophone writers from the Maghreb. Do these writers address their compatriots, many of whom are illiterate or read no French, or a broader audience beyond Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia? In Experimental Nations, Reda Bensmaïa argues powerfully against the tendency to view their works not as literary creations worth considering for their innovative style or language but as "ethnographic" texts and to appraise them only against the "French literary canon." He casts fresh light on the original literary strategies many such writers have deployed to reappropriate their cultural heritage and "reconfigure" their nations in the decades since colonialism.


Tracing the move from the anticolonial, nationalist, and arabist literature of the early years to the relative cosmopolitanism and diversity of Maghrebi francophone literature today, Bensmaïa draws on contemporary literary and postcolonial theory to "deterritorialize" its study. Whether in Assia Djebar's novels and films, Abdelkebir Khatabi's prose poems or critical essays, or the novels of Nabile Fares, Abdelwahab Meddeb, or Mouloud Feraoun, he raises the veil that hides the intrinsic richness of these artists' works from the eyes of even an attentive audience. Bensmaïa shows us how such Maghrebi writers have opened their nations as territories to rediscover and stake out, to invent, while creating a new language. In presenting this masterful account of "virtual" but veritable nations, he sets forth a new and fertile topography for francophone literature.

Honorable Mention for the 2003 Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for French and Francophone Studies

Translator's Notep. vii
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introduction: Is an "Experimental" Nation Possible?p. 1
Nations of Writersp. 11
Cultural "Terrain"p. 11
A New Geolinguisticsp. 14
Cities of Writersp. 27
The Imaginary of the Medina in Francophone Literature from the Maghrebp. 27
Algiers/Paris, or the City as a "Site of Memory": Merzak Allouache's Salut Cousinp. 38
Nabile Fares, or How to Become "Minoritarian"p. 47
Postcolonial Nations: Political or Poetic Allegories? (On Tahar Djaout's L'invention du desert)p. 67
(Hi)stories of Expatriation: Virtual Countriesp. 83
Assia Djebar's La Nouba des femmes du Mont Chenoua: Introduction to the Cinematic Fragmentp. 83
Multilingualism and National "Traits"p. 99
"Translating or Whiting Out Language": On Khatibi's Amour Bilinguep. 99
On Khatibi's Notion of the "Professional Traveler"p. 124
Writing Metafiction: On Khatibi's Le livre du sangp. 135
The Cartography of the Nation: Mouloud Feraoun's Le fils du pauvre Revisitedp. 149
By Way of a Conclusionp. 159
Le Depays: On Chris Marker's Lettre de Siberie (1957)p. 165
Notesp. 171
Index Nominump. 205
Index Reump. 209
Table of Contents provided by Rittenhouse. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780691089379
ISBN-10: 069108937X
Series: Translation/Transnation
Audience: Tertiary; University or College
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 232
Published: 17th March 2003
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.88 x 15.34  x 1.45
Weight (kg): 0.34