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The Glorious Struggle of Assia Djebar

She is a symbol of the general plight of Algerian women, and has played a stellar role in the emancipation of all Algeria. Oppressed women can find solace in her words, symbolically penned under a surrogate name to placate her literate but conservative family. She has not been recognized by the Nobel Prize Committee, though she has a plethora of awards to her name.

Her academic career spans both sides of the Atlantic, with notable contributions in both France and the United States, apart from her native Algeria. Fatima-Zohra Imalayen is her name in real life, but Algeria, Algerian women who are literate, and the outside world know her better as Assia Djebar.

It could not have been easy for a girl in the French Algeria of the pre World War II years to seek an education, but Fatima or Assia if you prefer, came through with flying colors. We do not know if a teacher for a father helped in any way, but it is same to assume that intrinsic scholastic aptitude must have been largely responsible for propelling her across the Mediterranean to the pinnacle of learning institutions in France. The colonial power, to its credit, has always nurtured and recognized the genius of Assia Djebar, and she is a proud member of the French Academy. Her best work has been in French, though she has made valiant attempts after independence to express herself in Arabic as well.

Language should be no bar for a person of Assia Djebar’s caliber, for her stark feminism remains unbowed and defiant in a sea of discrimination and fundamentalist suppression of women. Her words must resound in the minds of Algerian women as they continue their strife to assert themselves in the most trying circumstances. Actually, her writing has such high literary qualities that it can act as a beacon for sexual equality even in the most liberal of communities. Written as it has, amidst bigotry as must have prevailed elsewhere only in the Dark Ages, it is a saga of extraordinary courage, apart from its sheer literary merit. Assia has written poetry and produced quality cinema apart from her brilliant and vast collage of the best quality prose produced by any woman in modern Algeria.


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