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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Les Ecrivains nord-africains entre le colonialisme et l'independance Gorman, Dublin

Abstract

This thesis will examine the works of six of the most outstanding French language writers of North Africa. The writings covered will encompass a period of some twenty years from the late nineteen thirties to 1962. Of the authors we have chosen to discuss four are Algerian: Mohammed Dib, Mouloud Feraoun, Mouloud Mammeri and Yacine Kateb. Driss Chraibi is Moroccan and Albert Memmi a Tunisian of Jewish extraction. It will be seen that the twenty odd years with which this thesis -is concerned constituted, sociologically, an extremely difficult period for the people of the Magrab. It was the period of social evolution and political upheaval which so often goes hand in hand with a colony's quest for independence. This fact is constantly reflected in the works we discuss, and indeed, often tends to form the very foundation of the theme the author is developing. For the sake of clarity we have divided our study into four subdivisions. The first of these considers the problems imposed on Magrabians by North African traditionalism. An examination of Les Chemins qui montent, La Colline oubliée, Le Fils du Pauvre and Le Sommeil du Juste amongst others shows to what extent many of the customs peculiar to North African tradition restrict and hinder a people striving to adapt themselves to life in the twentieth century world. A chronic lack of schools, deeply rooted superstitions and any number of backward beliefs contributed to the general ignorance of the population. Social hierarchy and the introversion inherent to the various sections of society such as the village, the tribe and the clan tended to stifle any catalytic elements from the exterior. This tradition steeped way of life imposed serious limitations upon the youth of the period. Only the privileged few obtained an education, and even they were hard pressed, to put it to good use under the conditions of their own milieu. Chapter two is concerned with the confrontation of the two Magrabian societies, the North African and the French. It will be noted that the North African was often obliged by the European colonists to suffer considerable hardship. Many of the customs dear to him were abolished, and the public administration with its "Komisars" was anything but sympathetic toward the North African and his plight. .The uneducated natives naturally left themselves open to flagrant exploitation from which the colonists profited greatly. As for those Arabs who had managed to acquire an education, they were unable to take their rightful place in life as they were socially unacceptable to the French. Total integration was impossible under the circumstances. The North African Jew encountered even greater difficulties as he was often considered to be a quasi-outcast by his Arab compatriots as well as by the French colonists. Chapter three examines La Grande maison, Le Sommeil du juste and L'Opium et le baton and their theme of Magrabian nationalism. It will be seen that gradually the North Africans realize that they have a mother country. They feel the need for and hope for an improvement in their way of life. They desire an end to the poverty and backwardness which is so characteristic of their existence. The only solution appeared to them to lie in revolting against the colonial power which eventually led to the Algerian war of independence. The final chapter will show that the revolt and terrible war it caused was not a cure all for the ills that plagued the Magrab. Independence when it finally came was a disappointment. The transition from a colony to independent state had been too great and too hasty for the ignorant majority of the people. Independence had not brought about the desired reforms; on the contrary, the lot of many was worse than it had been under French domination. The leaders of the new country did not really have the interests of the people in mind, and social chaos resulted. In conclusion it will be noted that though the themes of the majority of the novels tend to be socio-political in nature, and thus largely appeal to a somewhat specialized segment of the reading public, some of them contain elements which may be said to be of universal interest. It will also be suggested that whether they may be of universal interest or not is really secondary to the fact that these novels represent the attempts of a society which, in a literary context at least, is in its infancy, and that universal or not they are representative of an entirely new literature, the literature of North Africa.

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