Professor Si Mohamed Laamiri on Maghrebi Literature in English
December 22, 2008
Writing North Africa: Maghrebi Literature in English, A General Introduction and Bibliography
"Who in Morocco was, or is, interested in a Moroccan writing creative fiction in English?"
For about four and a half centuries, North Africa andits people were portrayed in hundreds of texts, travel accounts, reports, documents and other literary genres. Maghrebis did not even know about those writings because they did not speak English. Today things are changing and a return to those early travel writings is gradually established through academic research in North African universities. We now witness the emergence of a Maghrebi creativeliterature in English in the form of poems, short stories, novels and plays.
This paper provides a general introduction to a burgeoning North literature in English and a preliminary bibliography of this literature. However, we must reckon that the gathering of a corpus of this Literature was not easy not because of quantity but because of scarcity and the absence of any previousbibliographical work on the subject and the difficulty to trace individual publications in small and unknown local press houses or in out of reach publications by the North African Diaspora in Anglophone countries. In 2003, a doctoral thesis prepared by Jacqueline Jondot entitled 'Les Ecrivains d'Expression Anglaise au Proche Orient Arabe' was defended at the Sorbonne in Paris. In this gigantic work of about1400 pages the only Maghrebi writers referred to are Anouar Majid and Sabiha Khemir in an understandable unawareness of a number of North African creative texts in English. In fact, the author admits that:
L'établissement d'un corpus de textes de fiction d'expression anglaise au Proche-Orient arabe s'est vite révélé difficile et le résultat frustrant puisqu'il est très réduit et, comme on leverra, de qualité généralement assez médiocre.
Inspired by the successful experience of the "Littérature Maghrebine d'Expression Française", the paper draws attention to the existence of a corpus of texts which may one day reproduce the same experience in English. In the final course, the paper aims to raise a few issues about this newborn offshoot of North African Literature.
Thefollowing is not a study of individual works but the outline of a general introduction drawing attention to the existence of a body of texts which can no longer be ignored or considered as marginal individual literary enterprises. The paper aims above all at raising a few issues about this new born offshoot of North African Literature.
These writings may not be best sellers, they may not belong to thecanon of British or American academia but they, nevertheless, represent the first harbingers of a new era where silenced cultures acquire an English voice. In North Africa, French, the language of the former colonizer, is used by a number of Maghrebi intellectuals as a means of artistic creativity. The increasing production of creative works in English in recent years speaks to a remarkablephenomenon that deserves due consideration.
The 1990s saw the first publications of creative writings in English by North African authors; these publications included poetry, the short story and the novel. However, unlike Indian, Nigerian or Australian literatures, Maghrebi writings in English do not seem to spring from a conscious political or cultural grudge against Britain. Rather, they seem to bethe emanation of the hegemonic global expansion of the English language and Anglo-American literatures. It is also an indication of the expansion of English in the Maghreb though the production and consumption context of works in English is extremely limited. The paper also raises the question of whether there is a future for this literature and whether it has the potential to develop into a...