France - Algeria

Algerian French-language novelist Assia Djebar dies, aged 78

Assia Djebar
Assia Djebar Anabell Guerrero/Fayard

Algerian French-language novelist Assia Djebar has died in a Paris hospital at the age of 78. French President François Hollande hailed her as a “woman of conviction” and a “great intellectual”.


Djebar was a “great Algerian intellectual, a writer, historian, film-maker and French-language university professor”, a statement by the Elysée presidential palace said on Saturday.

Her work was “committed to opposing regression and, often, misoginy”, it added.

Born Fatma-Zohra Imalayène, her pseudonym meant Consolation (Assia) Intransigence (Djebar).

She is to be buried according to her wishes in her birthplace, Cherchell, a coastal town inhabited by members of the non-Arab Berber people on Algeria coast.

Elected in 2005 to the Académie Francaise, France's top literary institution, she was seen as a contender for the Nobel prize for literature in her later years.

Djebar wrote more than 15 novels in French as well as poetry and short stories, receiving widespread acclaim for her treatment of Muslim women and their struggle for emancipation.

Her books have been translated into 23 languages, including English, and she divided her time between Paris and the United States where she taught graduate studies at New York University.

Her first novel, La Soif, was criticised in Algeria for ignoring politics during the fight for independence from France, although she supported that struggle, but her election to the French academy was hailed as a source of national pride.

Assia Djebar's life in dates:

  • 1936: Born Fatma-Zohra Imalayène in Cherchell, west Algeria;
  • 1955: First Muslim-origin woman to be admitted to France’s prestigious Ecole Normale Supérieure;
  • 1957: Publishes first book La Soif (published as The Mischief in English);
  • 1958: Publishes Les Impatients;
  • 1959: Studies modern history of the Maghreb at Morocco’s Rabat University;
  • 1962: Becomes professor at Algiers university, publishes Les enfants du nouveau monde;
  • 1965: Leaves Algiers university when staff are instructed to teach in literary Arabic;
  • 1967: Publishes Les alouettes naïves;
  • 1968: Marries writer Walid Carn (pseudonym of Ould-Rouis Ahmed);
  • 1974: Returns to Algiers university to teach French literature and cinema;
  • 1975: Divorces;
  • 1977: Directs first film La Nouba des femmes du mont Chenoua (The Song of the Women of Mount Chenoua);
  • 1979: Receives International Critics’ Prize at the Venice Biennale for La Nouba des femmes du mont Chenoua;
  • 1980: Returns to Paris to live;
  • 1981: Marries poet Malek Alloula;
  • 1982: Wins best historical film at Venice Biennale for La Zerda ou les chants de l'oubli, (Zerda or the Forgotten Songs);
  • 1985: Publishes L’Amour, la fantasia;
  • 1987: Publishes Ombre sultane:
  • 1999: Elected to Belgium’s Academy of French language and literature;
  • 2000: Wins Germany’s peace prize;
  • 2001: Becomes professor at New York University, having previously taught at Louisiana Sate University in Baton Rouge;
  • 2005: Elected to the Académie Française;
  • 2007: Publishes Nulle part dans la maison de mon père, her last book;
  • 6 February 2015: Dies in a Paris hospital after a long illness.


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