Power and publishing
: contemporary Arabophone and Francophone Algerian literature and its national and transnational conditions of production

  • Karima Bentoumi

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

This thesis explores the relationship between Algerian fiction writing and its
conditions of production. It examines how these conditions of production shape both literary careers and novels’ thematic concerns. It assesses the possibilities and limitations of the existence of an “Algerian literary field” within a transnational context in which Algeria is an economically minor cultural player. The evolution of the relationship between art and the market is studied across the longue durée – i.e. since the first Algerian novels were published at the start of the twentieth century to the present day. Particular attention is paid to a new generation of Algerian authors – mostly in their late 30s – writing today, whom have hitherto not been the subject of academic study. This is alongside the analysis of the careers and work of internationally well-known contemporary authors Kamel Daoud, Yasmina Khadra, Boualem Sansal, Waciny Laredj and Ahlam Mosteghanemi, who owe part of their success to the creation of literary personas, and notably the persona of the postcolonial “translator” of Algeria to non-Algerian audiences.
The majority of existing academic studies focus on Francophone fiction publishing. Arabic-language fiction and publishing has tended to be understudied. This thesis brings together the study of Arabic-language literature with that of French-language literature to offer a more complete study of the Algerian publishing scene. It argues that the existing scholarly literature has been overoptimistic about the margins of manoeuvre of Algerian writers, both in Arabic and French, to escape or subvert the thematic (and aesthetic) expectations of publishing houses and the power of transnational (notably French and Middle Eastern) networks over Algerian publishing houses. The fact that French-language authors tend to gravitate towards Paris and Arabic-language authors towards Sharjah or Beirut also reinforces the distinction between “Arabophone” and “Francophone” Algerian literatures. Yet at the same time, contemporary Algerian authors and publishers are increasingly seeing themselves as part of one field: whilst a new generation of authors returns to the work of previous generations for inspiration, regardless of language of expression, an increasingly monolingual, younger reading public is creating a market for the translation of classics of Francophone Algerian literature into Arabic.
One of the contributions to knowledge of this PhD is the production of new empirical material about publishing in Algeria, and notably a range of interviews with owners and senior employees of Algerian private publishing houses (Chihab, Casbah, Barzakh, Apic, Frantz Fanon, Fassila, Ibn Al Chatie, El-Ikhtlief, El Almaia, Dar El Izza wa El Karama, Tafat, NECIB, El Mothakaff and El-Hibr), book shop owners and younger authors (Sofiane Mokhenache, Abdelouahab Aissaoui, Miloud Yabrir, Riadh Hadir, Saïd Khatibi, Rafik Taibi, Ryad Girod, Smail Yabrir, Samir Kacimi, Mohammed Djafar, Alloua Koussa, Abdellatif Ould Abdellah, Amal Bouchareb and Djamila Morani).
Date of AwardApr 2020
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorOlivia Umurerwa Rutazibwa (Supervisor), Christine Berberich (Supervisor) & Natalya Vince (Supervisor)

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