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Narrating the Empire: Nationalism, Memory and Gender in Arab Postcolonial Novel, the Case of Tayyib Sallehs Season

of Migration to the North, Mohammed Berradas The Game of Forgetting and Assia Djebars LAmour, la Fantasia

Abdelghani El Khairat Literary Studies Utrecht University Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Paulo De Medeiros Second Reader: Prof. Dr. Ann Rigney February 2008 MA Thesis


ACKNOWLEDGMENT...................................................................................................2 I. INTRODUCTION.........................................................................................................3 II. NARRATIVE WRITING IN CONTEMPORARY ARABIC LITERATURE.......7 III. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EUROPE AND THE ARAB WORLD IN TAYYIB SALLEHS ......................................................................................................28 IV. THE MYTH OF NATIONALISM AND THE PRODUCTION OF CULTURAL MEMORY IN MOHAMMED BRRADAS THE GAME OF FORGETTING ........49 V. THE SUBALTERN WRITES BACK IN ASSIA DJEBARS LAMOUR, LA FANTASIA ......................................................................................................................70 VI. CONCLUSION..........................................................................................................94 WORKS CITED...............................................................................................................99

Acknowledgment I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all the people who assisted me in the writing of this thesis and above all to Prof. Dr. Paulo De Medeiros for his valuable advises and his constructive criticism during the different stages of writing this work.

My special thanks go to Prof. Dr. Ann Rigney for her help, coaching and encouragement during the last two years. I would like also to thank her for accepting to read and comment on this thesis. Once again, my sincere thanks go to Loes Vleeming for being passionate, supportive and generous with me these years Last but not least, I would like to dedicate this humble work to El Khairats and Zahers family, especially to Latifa El Khairat and Abdelilah Zaher.

Thank you all.

I. Introduction The decline of colonial empires after Second World War led to the rise of several sovereign states in the Arab world and elsewhere. Most of these independent states have been greatly influenced by imperialism and colonialism. Consequently, the need to

achieve a functional reality was very demanding as was the need for re-creating national identity, which had been partially or completely damaged, corrupted and marginalised. In this context, a new mode of writing emerges as an autonomous literature that foregrounds cultural conflicts and puts into question the relationship between the centre and the periphery. This suggests that Arab literature produced after the colonial era significantly and consciously questions and challenges Western cultural patterns of knowledge, which played a crucial role in fixing the relationship between Europe and the Arab world; a relationship based on naturalising the superiority and purity of Western civilisation and the inferiority and corruption of Eastern one. Re-considering the relationship between Europe and the rest of the world is one of the dominating features in the three novels that I have chosen to analyse in this study: Season of Migration to the North by Sudans most famous author, Tayyib Salleh; The Game of Forgetting, a novel written by the Moroccan critic and novelist Mohammed Berrada; and LAmour La Fantasia, an outstanding narrative by the Algerian activist and filmmaker Assia Djebar. In this thesis, I will discuss the relationship between Europe and the Arab world, focusing more particularly on the genre of the novel as a form of writing back to the centre and resisting the supremacy of European patterns of knowledge. I will also try to show that the three novels problematisation of European colonial history serves many purposes, some of which are to establish a dialogue with, and react against, European models. In this respect, four issues will be highlighted, namely (a) Narrative Writing in Contemporary Arabic Literature, (b) The Relationship between Europe and the Arab World, (c) The Myth of Nationalism and the Production of Cultural Memory, (d) The Subaltern Writes Back.

The division of this thesis into four aspects dictates different ways of analysis. In the first one, Narrative Writing in Contemporary Arabic Literature, I will try to shed light on the current debate about the Arabic novel, in an attempt to point out the major aspects of its development. To do so, it becomes necessary to talk about the beginnings, and to trace out the influences of European literary models, especially the English and the French. As for The Relationship between Europe and the Arab World I will focus on the East/West problematic in Tayyib Sallehs novel Season of Migration to the North. In this novel, Salleh advances a dialectical relationship between European models and the re-created independent local identity. Sallehs intellectual project starts from the assumption that Western imperialism and colonialism are behind West/East tension. He starts producing a counter narrative in which he reconsiders British colonial hegemony and homogeneity. He recasts the history of the relationship between the coloniser and the colonised, by problematising the key concepts that govern the relationship between Europe and the Sudan. In the Myths of Nationalism and the Production Cultural Memory, I will discuss the use of literature in the production of cultural memory, focusing particularly on Mohammed Berradas novel The Game of Forgetting. I will also try to provide an answer to the question of how literature functions in relation to cultural memory; that is to say, how the novel, as a work of art, can bear witness to the nations past and present and contribute in establishing a cultural memory. I will show that the liaison between literature and cultural memory is best manifested in The Game of Forgetting since it

manages to question, negotiate and reconstruct the past within the contemporary frame of present-day Morocco. The fourth and the last chapter entitled The Subaltern Writes Back deals with Assia Djebars novel LAmour, la Fantasia. I will explain that Djebars choice to rework the colonial history of Algeria aims at exploiting the tension between the centre and the margin, by challenging the primacy of Western standards that assume universality. I will examine how Algerian women have been affected, subjugated and influenced by Arab patriarchal culture which denied them the possibility to have access to the institutions in which power is exercised and transmitted, thereby reducing them to mere consumers, if not subject to various forms of male oriented systems of manipulation. Furthermore, the very act of challenging patriarchal and colonial monolithic discourse is part of Djebars strategy of undermining the existing oppressive systems, which forced Algerian women to fulfil the role of the subaltern, silenced and helpless victim. To approach this topic from an effective analytical point of view, a theoretical framework is needed. The suitable approach to analyse the theme of re-writing colonial history is the discursive technique as proposed by postcolonial critics, who suggest that colonial history is full of interruptions, lies and inadequacies. It is seen as a condensation of narratives used by colonial authorities as a way to legitimise the exploitation, subjugation and colonisation of other nations. Colonial historiography, in this sense, does not only stand at the base of colonialism and imperialism, but also helps in manufacturing and controlling the colonial others. The concept of cultural memory as developed by Jan and Aleida Assmann, Ann Rigney and others will also be of great help to my analysis and discussion since it helps us to understand how memory functions, so as to reconsider

standardised history and propose other versions of the past missed from or dropped of official historical records. In this context, memory opens up new perspectives in dealing with the past; perspectives which can be defined in opposition to hegemonic views of the past and associated with groups who have been left out, as it were, of mainstream history (Rigney, Plenitude 13). I will also rely on some insights from Feminist Theory in order to illustrate how Arab women, like any marginalised group, were and are still affected and manipulated by the dominant patriarchal culture. I will use feminist theoretical framework to uncover the system of thoughts that guarantee the supremacy of patriarchy and the subordination of the female, especially the Arab.

II. Narrative Writing in Contemporary Arabic Literature No discussion can be had about the emergence of modern Arabic novel without considering the context of influence, opposition and interaction between Arab and Western cultures. Since the end of the nineteenth-century, considered by many Arab literary historians as the beginning of Arab cultural renaissance, Nahda, the Arab world

knew exceptional literary enlightenments. Most of the writers of this period, mainly those who wrote from the centre; Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, tried to catch up with the modern world, by looking up to Western achievements in different fields of knowledge. Western ideas and ideals, such as the French Revolution, democratic reforms, scientific findings, played a crucial role in the 19th century intellectual awakening of Arabs. Wail Hassan demonstrates that It was not simply Arab intellectuals fascination with modern European civilisation but also, and more urgently, its colonial threat that led to the movement known as Nahda (or revival) in the mid-nineteenth century. In the wake of the short-lived French occupation of Egypt, Muhammed Alis first aim was to build a modern army, and therefore the purpose of the educational missions he began sending to France in the late 1820s was to borrow European science and technology. Those missions eventually exposed Arab intellectuals to European culture, thought, and literature. (57) In the field of literature, for instance, new forms of expression took place. Poetry became no longer synonymous with describing chivalric values, weeping the beloved or praising the tribe, themes which had characterised Arabic poetry, but assumed new roles where the interest lied on social and political issues. Alongside this thematic innovation, a formal revolution took place in which traditional structures are replaced by Western ones and archaic expressions by modern poetic diction. In this period of great intercultural influence, the Arab literary scene witnessed the emergence of the genre of the novel which was an unprecedented literary form with no roots in Arabic literary heritage, unlike poetry which had a long and rich repertoire. Western narrative prose was

welcomed in Arab literary circles because of its ability to capture and represent the daily life within a complex network of relationships. Aspects of the novel, such as dialogism, polyphony and irony, made it the literary genre which succeeded in representing the reality of Arab societies and the life of its citizens more than any other existing form of expression. In this chapter I will try to give a general view about narrative writing in the Arab world and how it manages to enrich political and cultural debates during a century. It is no coincidence, then, that I have decided to divide this chapter into two major points, in which the first one will be devoted to the rise of the novel and the second to current issues. In the first part, I will provide a short history of the Arabic novel, by giving an overview of the major stages and developments it underwent. I will also try to point out the essential cultural and historical components that played a part in the implantation of the genre of the novel in Arabs literary soil. Central to this section, will be the discussion of Eastern examples, mainly those from Egypt and Lebanon. In the second part, I will discuss the North African novel of both Arabic and French expression, particularly from Morocco and Algeria. This choice is not contingent upon personal motives, the fact of my being Moroccan, but by rather the hope to give a broaden view about Arabs literary scene both from its centre and its margin, and also to show that other narrative writings produced in the margin were (and still are) as important and worth of studying as those from the centre. Narrative experience in these countries can also be seen as prototypical of the rest of Arab nations whose literature is not considered part of the Arab canon. A special focus is given to the issue of the choice of language for writing. In the case of this

study, I limit my discussion about the Moroccan novel to texts written in Arabic and in French in the case of Algeria. The deep transformation of Arab societies during the 19th century posed immediate challenges and causes urgent changes in all aspects of life from culture to politics and from economics to education. Early narrative experiences have been greatly influenced and oriented by Western models, thoughts and ideologies. Like their Western masters, Arab writers tried to uncover the silence surrounding social conditions of the individual and the community. Marxist and Existentialist ideologies fuelled the revolutionary spirit of early Arabic novels during the 40s and the 50s: After 1948, however, this trend gained a powerful momentum, which coincided with the appearance in Arabic of the Existentialists. When Sartre and Camus (the latter actually refused to be called Existentialist) were translated and studied all through the fifties, they took Arab intellectual life by storm. Sartre was the special favourite of Beiruts literary workshop, and the reaction in Baghdad and Cairo was tremendous. One did not have to agree with everything Sartre said, but his ideas became pivotal to the new generation of writers who sought involvement in the political and social issues of their times. (Jabra 87-88) In the 60s, however, the Arabic novel took another dimension due to many historical, social and political factors, such as the emergence of totalitarian regimes in most of the Arab countries, economic and social disorder in the post-independence era and Arabs defeat in the war against Israel and its allies in 1967. During its short history, the narrative genre knew important stylistic and thematic improvements which enabled it to depict the worries and concerns of Arabs in a more


remarkable way than any other literary expression. Its unique aspects made it also the suitable literary genre which could absorb and reflect the major transformations and frustrations of Arab societies. Socially speaking, it succeeded in uncovering the hidden and forbidden terrain of taboos in the Arab culture. Sexual issues, patriarchal culture, position of women became not only subjects of popular, but also part of serious debates. Besides, the emergence of the Arabic novel helped in raising the issue of language; meaning how to give Arabic new dimension other than its expressive function; how it could become operative by establishing a new relationship and dialogue between tradition and innovation; between Arabic literary legacy and foreign texts produced in, and imported from, other parts of the world. Any attempt at speaking about the historical development of the Arabic novel must take into account two components, one historical and the other structural. In the first case, the genre of the novel has no historical roots in Arab literary tradition. It is, rather, a Western mode of expression which has been imitated by Arab writers who had direct contact with or learned European languages and culture. In less than one century, the Arabic novel attained its literary maturity, a transformation which took about three centuries in Europe. This abridgment of time did not affect Arabs narrative experiences, but it allowed Arab writers to broaden their perspectives, learn from their Western fellows experiences and be able to choose the appropriate way to convey their message or to share their literary imagining. In the second case, Arabic narrative writing did not form one coherent whole. It was rather a series of individual and regional experiences full of diversities. Herein, one should distinguish between two stages.


The first is referred to as the Beginnings, a period which lasted from the end of the 19th century till the 40s of the last century. Early narratives are strongly influenced by Western models and characterised by mixing between literary genres; that is to say, mixing traditional forms, like maqama, travel narratives, chronicles etc with imported Western narrative techniques, such as characterization, plot, setting etc. As Jeff Shalan remarks: Without a clear antecedent in the traditional forms of Arabic prose narrativethe maqama, hadith, sira, qissa, khurafa, usturait was for the most part a group of Syrian Christians who first introduced the novel to the Arab world through nineteenth-century translations of European works , often adapted to the rhymed prose form of the maqama. But a consequence of the Syrian migration that followed the Lebanese massacre of 1860, and the strict code of censorship imposed by the Ottoman administration in Syria, the center of literary activity had shifted by the latter part of the nineteenth-century to Cairo where the climate was more conductive to literary freedom, especially after 1882, when the British protected it by law. With a still small but growing readership, the popularityand thus the demandfor these translations and adaptations increased, and this in turn gave some writers the incentive to begin writing novels of their own. But by the large, these early experiments in the genre were unable to break free from the formal and thematic constraints of traditional prose forms. (217) The question of identity was a dominating theme of the first novels. It was expressed through reconsidering the relationship between the personal and the collective history as well as questioning the very functionality of tradition in an era of immense


inter-cultural interactions. Being greatly influenced by Western achievements, Arab writers started intensifying their efforts to spread new ways of looking at the world; they called for a society governed by democracy and freedom (demands which most Arab countries did not meet yet). Representative works of these innovative tendencies are the historical novels of Jurji Zaydan, Ali Al-Jarem, Mohammed Farid and others. What brings these novels together is their sincere attempt to restore the collective identity. To attain this aim, early Arab novelists tried to restore Arab chivalric values and glorious acts of the forefathers, by reviving special historical moments, events or figures that could trigger Arabs collective consciousness. Although many names and works appear in different critical studies as fundamental, most critics agree that Jabran Khalil Jabrans Al- Ajniha Al-Moutakassira (1911-12) (The Broken Wings) and Mohamed Husayn Hyakals Zaynab, which appeared first under the name of Misri Fallah (An Egyptian Peasant) in 1913, are the first mature modern novels in Arabic language. These novels resemble in their structure the sentimental and rural novels of 18th century Europe obsessed by the mission and ambition of fixing right behaviour, reforming conduct and exposing social evil. Immediate issues found their way to these novels, particularly the critical position of Arab women in a male oriented community. In these narratives, Arab society, mentality and culture are harshly criticized and condemned for marginalising and silencing Arab women who suffered since the dawn of history from male oriented systems of manipulation, oppression and domination. Zaynab, for instance, is a rambling and sentimental story, with at its coreapart from sub-plots that are never rounded offthe predicament of a peasant girl who dies of consumption after being made to marry the man her father


chooses for her rather than the one she loves. It is also noted for its sympathetic depiction of rural life, and for its bold use of the colloquial in parts of the dialoguenot throughout, as has often been asserted, but in the context of everyday life (Cachia 113). Though employing some traditional techniques, like empirical style, poetic language etc, these works fulfil the requirements of a complete novelistic writing because they successfully utilise the fundamental aspects of the novel, like everyday speech, dialogue, characterisation etc. As for the second stage, which can be labeled as the Mature Stage, narrative prose writing declared an abrupt break with all forms of Arab traditional expressions, like maqama, sira, hikaya etc, which allowed it a full adherence to the club of the pioneering figures of the Western novel. The literary enlightenment of the 1960s was the outcome of a number of complex aesthetic and formal formations and transformations of a considerable number of Arab writers from different Arab countries. Unlike their masters, modern Arab novelists this time tackled their subject matter in a crafted and profound way. Reality was no longer seen from the narrow perspective of culture and history, but from a broader angle that put these components into scrutiny and interrogation; Arab reality was looked at not as the result of the instant moment, but as a process which has roots in history and tradition. Jabra Ibrahim Jabra points out that The leit-motifs of the new writers were: freedom, anxiety, protest, struggle, social progress, individual salvation, rebellion, heroism. There was to be commitment to humanity: a Third World was being born and writers were its prophets. Altogether, there was something in the air rather akin to what had happened in


England and France twenty years earlierin the Thirties. Hemingway, a novelist of action, became belatedly almost as popular as Sartre. (88) These elements appear clearly in the works of many modern novelists, like the Egyptians Jamal Al-Ghitani, Najib Mahfuz and others; the Sudanese Tayyib Salleh; the Lebanese Elyas Khouri; the Syrian Hani Arahib; the Palestinian Ghassan Kanafani; the Algerian Tahar Watar; or the Moroccan Mohammed Berrada. In comparison with the East, narrative writing in Morocco began to appear only in the late 20s. Despite of this delay, one can safely say that the Moroccan novel succeeds to gain important and prestigious position in Arab and world literary circles. It succeeds also to formulate its own independent questions that respond to the worries and inquiries of its readers. The genre of the novel has been first imported to Morocco from the Arab East and later from the West, especially from France. Other influential elements that have played a crucial role in the development of the novel in Morocco are local forms of expression which were popular at that time, namely travel narratives, historical accounts and autobiographical writings. Like elsewhere in Africa and the Arab world, the Moroccan novel of the first half of the 20th century was occupied by promoting national ideologies and spreading the culture of resistance and struggle, for the sake of freeing the nation from foreign occupation. A great deal of these patriotic ideas was fuelled by Salfist ideologies. They called for the return to Islamic teachings and heritage in order to intensify social, cultural and political reforms and to break free from the constraints of colonialism and rescue the national and Islamic identity from French cultural influences. In the post-independence era, literary endeavours were oriented towards discussing and revealing immediate


political and national issues. In this atmosphere, Marxist and leftist thoughts flourished under the banner of eradicating social injustices and political corruption. Literature, according to this perspective, should become an instrument that reflected the disturbances in the social and political system and responded to the demands of the middle and lower classes. In a word, In [] the postcolonial era, Maghrebian writers focus on unearthing the negative factors that erode Maghrebian society (Mortimer, Maghrebian 5). During its history, the Moroccan novel used to be dependent on Eastern literary models. It used to imitate Eastern themes and forms of expression and to follow its patterns. Abdellah Guenoune argues: The situation in Morocco [in the mid-19th and the beginning of the 20th century] was not suitable enough to give rise to any other form of expression than those which were popular at that time [] Therefore, intellectual and literary activities remained stagnant, imitating classical works in everything: themes, form and style. Writers composed their books in the same way as their ancestors and employed the same archaic techniques. ([translation from Arabic is mine] 17) Accordingly, these works had no literary value, for they lacked the spirit of creation and innovation. Guenoune concludes: Yes there were writers and critics but their relation with the past was stronger than with the modern age. Their literary production did not differ at all from those written three centuries ago, though their authors were our contemporaries. ([translation from Arabic is mine] 17). After the 60s, Moroccan narrative writing knew important developments which have led to the birth of well-written and socially committed texts which have relied on


the power of the imagination to reflect individual and collective concerns. In comparison to the founding masters, the writers of the 60s dealt with their social reality in a more complex way. They were forced to reconsider their ideas and views about the formation and representation of reality and redesign the boundaries between the social and the political. From 1975 onwards, when the political regime managed to put an end to the revolutionary spirit of Moroccan leftist movements and to establish with force social peace, Moroccan novelists, as well as the rest of the population, felt deeply disappointed and deceived by their own patriots who proved to be a duplicate of the former colonisers. To avoid being censored or getting into trouble with the official authorities, Moroccan novelists chose to alienate themselves from society and politics and sought refuge in the vast realm of the imagination. The writers Self formulated the chief theme of the novels written in the 70s and the early 80s. 1 Understandably, then, the 60s was a turning decade in the history of the Moroccan novel. For many commentators, the mid 60s, precisely 1967, witnessed the birth of the modern Moroccan fiction. Jil Adama (Generation of Thirst), written by the Moroccan writer and philosopher Mohammed Aziz Lahbabi, is considered by many Moroccan literary historians as the first work which responds to the criteria of a good novelistic writing. Like Tayyib Sallehs Season of Migration to the North, a novel which I will discuss in detail in the next chapter of this study, the protagonist of Lahbabi, Idriss, is an intellectual who returned to his homeland after a long educational journey in Cairo where he got his MA and after that in Sorbonne University where he was granted a Ph.D. The big dilemma of Idriss is choosing; choosing between the Self and the various others: his

For more information, see the second chapter of Ahmed Almadinnis book Al-Kitabba Sardeya fi Al-Adab Al-Maghrebi Al-Hadith, Rabat: Dar Almaarif Al-JAdida, 2000, especially from page 67 till 71; Abdelali Bou Tayyib, Arriwaya Al-Maghrebeya Al-Aan Alittihad Al-Ichtiraki 02 Sept. 2005 <<http://www.alittihad.press.ma/affdetail.asp?codelangue=6&info=20613>.


own society and the West where he used to live: Since his return to Morocco six months ago, he lived in a world of confusion and obscurity because he could not choose ([translation from Arabic is mine] 51). Like all those who came from Europe, Idriss is brought suffering from a double pressure: personal and social. After his European journey, Idriss found himself forced to break free from the feeling of doubt caused by his direct contact with Western culture. He wanted to be convenient to his society, by transmitting his knowledge (teaching at the university) without giving up his hope of being a writer, a feeling which allows him to be in peace with himself. There are other critics who believe that Fi Toufoula (In Childhood) (1957) by Abdelmajid Ben Jelloun should be honoured as the first Moroccan novel. Others think that Thami El-Ouzzanis Zawya (The Saints Tomb) (1942) marks the real beginning of the Moroccan narrative experience. There are even some views that relate the emergence of the Moroccan novel to Ibn Al-Mokat and his work Arihla Al-Morrakochiyya (The Marrakechian Journey) appeared in 1924. From this short survey, one can notice that the Moroccan novel appeared late in comparison with the East and the West. Ahmed Al-Madini, a leading Moroccan critic and writer, describes this retard as a double handicap. He argues: Concerning the Moroccan novel, the problem was big since it embodied a double handicap. The first handicap has to do with the history of its emergence; the second with its imitation of Eastern models which had in their turn imitated Western ones ([translation from Arabic is mine] 40). This explains why the majority of early works were formally poor and aesthetically weak, like Amtar A-Rahma (The Rains of Mercy) by Abderrahmane El-


Merrini; Ghaddan Tatabadalo Al-Aard (Tomorrow will Change the Earth) by El-Bakrri Sbai; and Ennaha Al-Hayat (Thats Life) by Mohammed El-Bounani etc. From all that has been written till the end of the 60s, there are only five titles which are granted a permanent place in the Moroccan literary repertoire. These novels are Azzawya (The Saints Tomb) (1942) by Thami El-Ouazzani; Fi Toufoula (In Childhood) (1957) by Abdelmajid Ben Jelloun; Sabato Abouab (Seven Gates) (1965) by Abdelkarim Guellab; Dafanna Lmadi (We Buried the Past) (1966) by Abdelkarim Guellab; and Jil Addama (Generation of Thirst) (1967) by Mohammed Aziz Lehbabi. The main characteristics of these works can be summarised in three main points: the reliance on autobiographical elements, the representation of the European Other and the use of European narrative techniques The first outstanding characteristic of the early Moroccan fiction is the presence of the writers autobiographical elements in their literary works. For Abdelah Laroui, a Moroccan novelist and philosopher, the circulation of the fiction genre was the result of creative influences and a sign of an independent self. For this reason, the novel hosted the unique form of autobiography, to the extent that novel writing was during a long time a synonym of the autobiographical ([translation from Arabic is mine] 155). The second specification of this period is the problematic relationship between the Self and the European Other, who makes often an essential part of the main plot. This can be clearly seen in the autobiographical work of Abdelmajid Ben Jellouns Fi Toufolla (In Childhood), which speaks about childhoods memories of a child torn between two distinct environments: England and Morocco. The representation of the European Other was dictated by the spirit of the age characterised by intense cultural contacts and


numerous clashes. This confused relationship between the two worlds is also apparent in narrative prose produced in other Arab regions, such as Rihlat Osfour Mina Achark (A Voyage of a Bird from the Orient) by Tawfik Alhakim, Kandil Om Hachim (The Candlestick of Om Hachim) by Yahya Hakki, or Mawssim Al-Hijjra Ila Ashamal (Season of Migration to the North) by Tayyib Salleh. The third element that distinguishes this eras prose fiction is the successful employment of the techniques of the novel. The remarkable achievements of the foundational novels are their well imitation of both Eastern and Western classics: telling a story, respecting the linearity of narration, using omniscient narrators etc. Though the quality of these early works is not satisfactory enough, one can argue that they manage to establish the basis for a pure Moroccan fiction and to pave the way for the coming generations of Moroccan writers. Unlike the 60s, the 70s was an era of political turmoil. As a consequence of the wrong and unjust policies of the post-independence governments, policies which have led to terrible social, political and economic conditions, the majority of the population felt deceived and cheated by their political elites2. This unstable situation was behind the bloody confrontation, the so called the Years of the Bullets, between different Moroccan ideological and political movements and the state; between those who profited from the new situation and those who did not. Not only have national events left a negative impact on Moroccan collective consciousness, but also other events that took place elsewhere in the Arab world, namely Israelo- Palestinian clash and the negative effects of the Arab defeat against Israel in 1967. Writers like Mohammed Zafzaf, Abdelkarim Guellab, Mobarrak Rabi and Mohamed Choukri, were the representative

Ahmed Almadinni, Al-Kitabba Sardeya fi Al-Adab Al-Maghrebi Al-Hadith, Rabat: Dar Almaarif AlJAdida, 2000, pp. 67-71


figures of Realism in the Moroccan novel: The new writers were interested on themes which deal with their new society and the specificities of the historical experience. They were interested on expressing their peoples thoughts and ideologies as well as their misery, ignorance, poverty and backwardness. ([translation from Arabic is mine] Azzam 13). To name some aspects that marked this period, one can, for instance, refer to the use of the problematic heromost of the time heroism is restricted to intellectuals from the middle class; social and political criticism; the utilisation of a simple language that rejects the stylistic extravagances of classical Arabic literature etc. These socio-cultural conditions gave birth to modern literary ideas which considered the innovation of Moroccan literary writing as an urgent priority. The interest on narrative techniques and its various mechanisms became one of the main concerns of the Moroccan novelists. Novels followed no longer the linearity of events and the classical conventions of plot, but became highly fragmented and modernist. Indeed, they adopted intra- and intertextual strategies. That is to say, modern experimental novels employed meta-narrative techniques, such as dialogues between the narrator and the characters or that of the narrator with the author as we shall see in the discussion of Mohammed Barradas The Game of Forgetting, or engage in an intertextual relationship with other texts through citing, alluding or parodying them as we find in a recent work of Mohammed Berrada, The Woman of Forgetting (2001), which is a hypertext of his first novel The Game of Forgetting (1987). In addition to their interest on modern techniques, Moroccan writers relied on the power of imagination as an essential source of inspiration. Old themes, such as independence, colonialism, poverty, democracy, justice, backwardness, liberty, struggle


etc, gave place to egocentric subjects, in which writers own inquiries and daily experiences are made representative of the rest of the population. These innovative qualities have helped in bridging the gap between writers and their reading public who became interactive and participants in actualising the literary work. Contemporary Moroccan readers became no longer passive consumers of Moroccan literary products, but critical readers. Critical readers are meant by the critics and the intellectuals who followed an academic education; this category forms a very small minority in a country which suffers from a reading crisis and whose bestselling titles are less than 3000 copy. Even more privileged than the Moroccan fiction is the Algerian, since it has been influenced and strengthened by local, Arab and European elements that caused its literature to obtain a remarkable position in Arab and world literary map. The fusion of Berber local specificities and Arabo-Islamic spirit with the French language and culture has added to the peculiarity of the Algerian narrative experience. According to Laroussi, the use of French does not mark a historical movement, but a direct representation of Algerian society: La langue franaise nest-elle plus la marque dun mouvement historique (cent trente deux ans de colonisation), mais une prsentation directe de la socit algrienne, cest--dire un faux mouvement puisque depuis lindpendance la culture arabo-berbre inverse le rapport de domination franaise sans le supprimer. Il y a en Algrie une coupure irrationnelle entre se dire et tre, do le climat durgence de sa littrature. (55) In this rich cultural context, the Algerian novel in French developed, reflecting a history full of diversity, contest and resistance, which explains the omnipresence of themes of


nationalism and resistance in the Algerian novel in both French and Arabic. Mohammed Dib, Kateb Yacine, Malek Haddad, Assia Djebar and others are becoming international names who have a large reading public not only in their homeland Algeria, but in the rest of the globe as well. World literature is full of examples of writers who wrote in other languages than their mother tongues. The Algerian novel of French expression is a special cultural and linguistic phenomenon which succeeded in triggering important critical debate varied from views which include it within the category of the Arab novel (its themes and subject matters spring from Arabs socio-cultural context), whereas some views, and these represent the majority, consider it as an Algerian novel written in French, for language is the medium which indicates the identity of ones literature. Algerian writers refuse the idea of categorising their fiction either within Arab or French literary tradition, for they believe that the Algerian case and reality are unique. They believe also that their relationship with French is that of embattlement, dismantlement and subversion. Farid Laroussi points out: [Le romancier Algrien] refuse lalternative entre tre un crivain arabe ou un crivain moderne, parce que, justement, les normes de validation culturelles ne sont pas intrinsquement et naturellement occidentales. A la violence de la mission universaliste franaise, lauteur algrien cherche opposer celle dun renracinement et ce en dpit des dissonances nes de lemploi de la langue franaise. (54) For many commentators, like Jean Djeux, the real beginning of the Algerian novel in French took place in 1925 the date of the publication of Abdelkader Hadj


Hammous novel Zohra: la Femme du Mineur, where he tried to imitate the techniques of Emile Zolas Naturalistic novel. This text and others, like that of Sliman Benbrahim, Mohamed Oualdcheikh and others, were merely imitations of French colonial texts which have portrayed the Algerian man as the exotic, backward and uncivilised Other who is different, yet convenient to the French Self. For Hafnaoui Ba-Ali, early Algerian texts in French are characterised by a clear linearity which presented the Algerians in the same consumed exotic image as French colonial narratives. Technically speaking, these texts were aesthetically and thematically poor, for they could not break free from presenting simple love stories between the locals and the settlers. In these stories, the image of the Algerian is either that of a nave and simple or of an evil and violent. Ba-Ali states: These authors were writing for the French Other, trying to show them that Algerians are able to write as good as any civilised European. But the inquiries and the problems raised in these texts could not go beyond the simple exhibition of the Algerian as a context and subject of entertainment and folklore, with its consumptive degrading meaning. The movement of the Algerian novel in French started to establish for itself a literary repertoire which could reflect the Algerian Self and the ambitions of this man who inhabited North Africa ([translation from Arabic is mine] 3). Other critics, like Charles Bonn, mentioned that the beginning of the Algerian novel of French expression took place in 1950 which coincided with the publication of Fils du Pauvre (The Poor Mans Son) by Mouloud Feraoun. Feraoun is considered as one of the best North African novelists who write in French and his novel, Fils du Pauvre, as an authentic celebration of the heroic qualities of the Kbayli Algerian man. The events


took place in a small and calm village called Tizy, where the poor mans son, Forlo, was born and grown up. The village is at the same time a prototypical space of a typical rural community where life was still governed by traditional cultural norms handed down from one generation to another. Central to this novel is the contest between the local cultural identity and that imposed by the French occupier through his language, educational system etc. Feraouns text is to certain extents an autobiographical novel which describes the authors childhood and adolescence. Thus, the use of autobiography is an element which is to be detected in most early North African novels of both Arabic and French: Lmergence du je dans la littrature maghrbine de la langue franaise depuis les annes 50 nest pas a comprendre comme une rduction purement et simplement a notre personnalisme de plus en plus accentue des socits ne faisaient pas suffisamment sa place a la personne (autonome et responsable) en tant que telle. La cration romanesque dans lactivit scripturale est donc bien ici lieu privilgie ou cette personne peut saffirmer et donc, par le fait mme ; entre en conflit ; mais aussi sortir du communautarisme et du conformisme pour tre une personne a part entire. (Djeux quoted in Kelly 26) If Fils du Pauvre is seen as the real beginning of the Algerian novel of French expression, Katib Yacines remarkable work Nejma is described as one of the best Algerian novels, for it managed to represent in a deliberate way the countrys critical situation under the French rule. In this work, Yacine, through his central character Nejma, is occupied with the idea of searching for his own homeland and identity. Nejma is the spirit of the Algerian revolution; an emblem of the whole country, the maternal space where lies ones roots and memories. The structure and the style of the novel are


highly modernist as it can be seen in the use of stream of consciousness, myth, fragmentation and the violation of standard conventions of classical writing. Postmodern elements, like the subversion of French language, are also to be found in Yacines Nejma. This is what Larroussi noticed in his article about the genealogy of Algerian literature in French: Le phnomne dcriture post-modern possde, chez Kateb Yacine ou Rachid Boujedra, le caractre d'une dmonstration idologique ; comme sil sagissait de faire une seconde rvolution algrienne. Leurs romans, de par le choix de la langue franaise, est une forme de reconnaissance que le sujet existe par ses actes, mais quon ne peut lui prter les ides qui correspondent a ses actes quil accompli: bref, se dire en franais pour ne plus tre franais, voila ou rside la singularit. Comme dans le couple Prospro-Caliban il faut que le matre europen cde au gnie indigne non-europen. Ce choix de franais, tout aussi imposant quil parait, est donc le contraire dune adhsion. (56) For Katib Yacine and other Algerian novelists, narrative writing is a form of resistance against any attempt of cultural deformation or assimilation. It is a way to keep witness to what happened in the historical experience as well as to give Algerian man and woman their respect back. Together with their male fellow citizens, Francophone Algerian women writers have contributed to the development of the Algerian novel and the enrichment of the discussion about crucial issues, such as race, language, identity, gender, ethnicity, culture and nationalism. Writers like Assia Djebbar, Marie-Louise Amrouche and others presented gendered views of Algerias personal and collective history during French


occupation and after independence. Their literature came also as a reaction against the imposition of colonial cultural norms which called for the rejection of traditional social rules which organise the relationship between sexes. They rejected the idea of being westernised. Meriam Cooke sums up the situation as follows: Some strongly criticised the biculturalism inheritent in a [French educational] system that promoted womens self-confidence and self-assertion outside the home but crashed any sign of autonomy within. Indeed, it was those of Algerian women who perceived the double standards of their education who were pioneers of francophone fiction in the Arab world. Unlike the men who wrote just before and after the revolution of 1954-61, the women did not write to distance themselves from the French but rather to understand their situation in a bicultural society. (141). One of the outstanding themes of francophone Algerian novel now is the clash between tradition and modernity; between ones culture and external influences. The contemporary Algerian novel deals in a new way with these antagonistic components, by reviving the glorious achievements of the national heroic figures; redefining the relationship between the sexes; and asserting its aesthetic, linguistic and stylistic autonomy as an independent literary form which opposed French cultural hegemony. Indeed, it engages in a dialogue with the past and the present; with the colonial history and modern Algerian society and in the midst the political and social disorder caused by the armed confrontation between Islamist movements and political authorities. By doing so, it aims at reflecting about the flaws, greed and blood thirst of the past and present, opinions which so often can cause ominous danger to its writers.


III. The Relationship between Europe and the Arab World in Tayyib Sallehs Season of Migration to the North Re-considering the relationship between Europe and the Arab world is one of the dominating features in the novel chosen to be the subject of this chapter, Season of Migration to the North by the Sudanese novelist, Tayyib Salleh. In this part, I will discuss


the relationship between Europe and the colonial Others, focusing more particularly on the genre of the novel as a form of writing back to the centre. I will also try to show that the novels problematisation of European systems of thought serves many purposes, some of which are to establish a dialogue with, as well as to react against, European models of domination, by involving in a dialectical relationship between European colonial heritage and the re-created independent local identity.
No Arabic novel attained much discussion and investigation as that of Tayyib Sallehs Season of Migration to the North because it manages successfully to represent the dichotomy and historical conflict between East and West and to raise the question of cultural and national identity of the post-colonial Sudan. 3 Salleh aims in this work to describe the

reality of the post-independence Sudan by providing two distinct views of the Sudans national identity. Though the novel does not give a clear answer to this question, one can safely say that British presence in the region has led to a fracturing of Sudanese identity; an identity torn between the material allure of modernity, egoism and materialism, and the perceived spirituality, originality and purity of Arabo-Islamic legacy; between the fact of a hybrid present and the myth of an authentic past; in short, an identity which is left with no other choice but to forget about the past and cope with the modern reality. According to Saree Makdisi, The novel lies between the traditional categories of East and Westthat confusing zone in which the culture of an imperial power clashes with that of its

This novel of Tayyib Salleh has been widely received in the Arab countries and the west. Many reviews, essays and books have been devoted to the analysis and discussion of this work. A partial listing of these works: Fatima Musa. Usfur min al-Janub aw Alam al-Tayyib Salih. Al- Majalla 164 (1970): 95-102; Muhammad Zaghlul Salam. Dirasat fi al-Qissa al-Arabiyya al-Haditha. Alexanderia: Munshaat alMaarif, 1973: 428-437; Ahmad Said Muhamadiyya (ed). Al-Tayyib Salih: Abqari al-Riwaya al-Arabiyya. Beirut: Dar al-Wda, 1976 etc. For a complete list, see Ami Elad-Bouskilas article Shaping the Cast of Characters: the Case of Al-Tayyib Salih. Journal of Arabic Literature 19.2 (1998) pp. 59-60.


victimsthe antithetical relationship between which provides much of its driving force. This is the same dynamic that has generated many of the contradictions now characteristic of other postcolonial societies that manifest themselves in the clash between such categories as the modern and the traditional, the new and old ways of life, and of course between Western and native cultures and values. (807) In Season of Migration to the North, Tayyib Salleh departs from the assumption that the imposition of Western culture on the region has caused irretrievable damage at all levels of life in the Sudan. He emphasises that British culture is foreign to the Sudan and its people; a culture which is incompatible with the regions historical, social, religious and cultural specificities. In this respect, Sallehs text comes as a reaction against the bitter history of British colonial and cultural hegemony. In this counter-narrative, Salleh tries to recast the history of the relationship between Britain and the Sudan, by investigating the key concepts that govern the relationship between the two worlds.
These issues are embedded in the stories of two Arab citizens who return to their homeland, the Sudan, after the experience of living in Europe. The first story, with which the narrative opens, is that of a man, the narrator, who returns to his village at the curve of the Nile after spending seven years in Britain, studying literature at one of its universities: It was, gentlemen, after a long absenceseven years to be exact, during which time I was studying in Europethat I returned to my people (1). The other story is that of Mustafa Said, a former university teacher of Economics at the University of London, who appears suddenly in the narrators small village, marries one of its women and becomes one of its inhabitants: My father said that Mustafa was not a local man but a stranger who had come here five years ago, had bought himself a farm, built a house and married Mahmouds


daughtera man who kept himself to himself and about whom not much was known (2). The portrayal of the narrator and Mustafa Said reflects on the conflicting options embodied in their characters. One is moderate, the narrator, who seeks to bridge the gap between his Eastern culture and Western norms, by pointing out that both cultures have strong qualities and, at the same time, their shortcomings: Yes, there are some farmers among them [Europeans]. Theyve got everything workers and doctors and farmers and teachers, just like us. I preferred not to say the rest that had come to my mind: that just like us they are born and die, and in the journey from the cradle to the grave they dream dreams some of which come true and some of which are frustrated; that they fear the unknown, search for love and seek contentment in wife and child; that some are strong and some are weak; that some have been given more than they deserve by life, while others have been deprived by it, but that the differences are narrowing and most of the weak are no longer weak. (3). The figure of Mustafa Said, however, represents anti-West tendencies that call for revenging against former colonial powers: They [Europeans] imported to us the germ of the greatest European violence, as seen on the Somme and at Verdun, the like of which the world has never previously known, the germ of a deadly disease that struck them more than a thousand years ago. Yes, my dear sirs, I came as an invader into your very homes: a drop of the poison which you have injected into the veins of history. (95)

The novels concern with serious issues such as colonial guilt and the issue of national identity manifest the spirit of embattlement which characterises what Fredric Jameson calls, third-world literatures, namely to [draw] upon the many different


indigenous local and hybrid processes of self-determination to defy, erode and sometimes supplant the prodigious power of imperial cultural knowledge (Aschroft, et al 1)4. According to Frederic Jameson, all texts produced in the former colonies have the specificity of being national allegories. This notion is made evident in the opening
statements which describe the experience of the return of the native from the West. This return enables the character to reconsider anew the tension between colonial and colony cultures; between Western values and Eastern ones: For seven years I had longed for [my people], had dreamed of them, and it was an extraordinary moment when I at last found myself standing amongst them. They rejoiced at having me back and made a great fuss, and it was not long before I felt as though a piece of ice were melting inside of me, as though I were some frozen substance on which the sun had shonethat life warmth of the tribe which I had lost for a time in a land whose fishes die of the cold. (1) The narrators migration to the north opens to him new worlds. Not only does he enlarge his intellectual capacities, but also gets acquainted with the culture of the former coloniser. This northern experience has also offered him the opportunity to correct his ideas about Europeans and to refashion his relationship with his own country and people. What can be deduced from this prelude is that the narrators views towards Europe are not affected by any political or religious ideologies and his northern journey has not shaken his singular and well-rooted sense of identity (Geesey, Cultural130). He lived among Europeans without loving them or hating them. For seven years he was occupied with one thing, to return back to his small village and embrace his people.

Fredric Jamesons article Third World Literature in the Era of Multinationalism. Social Text 15 (1986), is very questionable. For responses, see the remarkable article of Aijaz Ahmad, Jamesons Rhetoric of Otherness and the National Allegory. Social Text 17 (1987).


Being open to both worlds and speaking from the in-between space, the narrator fulfils the role of a mediator between his own Arabo-Islamic culture and the Euro-Christian. Throughout the narrative, he keeps neutral. He never passes value judgments or criticises the West as most of his fellow citizens. On the contrary, he asserts that European culture is like any other culture in the world. It has good and bad sides at the same time and Europeans are, after all, human beings who do not differ that much from the rest of the human species. They are with minor differences, exactly like [his people] marrying and bringing their children in accordance with principles and traditions, that they [have] good morals and [are] in general good people (3). He seeks then to take distance from any ideology which contains deeper significance other than what his words literally imply. That is to say, he did not feel at home in England simply because he wanted to live where he belongs: I looked through the window at the palm tree standing in the courtyard of our house and I knew that all was still with life. I looked at its strong straight trunk, at its roots that strike down into the ground, at the green branches hanging down into the ground, at the green branches hanging down loosely over its top, and I experienced a feeling of assurance, I felt not like a storm-swept feather but like that palm tree, a being with background, with roots, with a purpose. (2)

The palm tree, deep rooted in the soil of the house, gives the narrator the impression of stability, certainty and assurance. He tries to bring a link between his actual situation and that of the tree. Differently put, after his long absence abroad, he could finally settle down and have, like the palm tree, strong roots and a mission in life. In this novel, Salleh encounters national discourse as an imaginative composite. The sense of belonging which kept haunting Seasons narrator during his stay abroad or the myths of nationalism which ruined Mustapha Saids life are imaginative and self-


inventive constructs meant to free the self from the burdens of the colonial past and the oppression of the deformed national reality. They aim also at reaffirming ones precolonial culture and traditional ways of life in an attempt to give life in the former colonies its local original specificity. The narrator of Seasons nationalism has to be understood by aligning it, not with self-consciously held political ideologies, but with the large cultural systems that preceded it, out of which [] it came into being (Anderson 12). Moving from the metropolis to the countryside, the narrator starts revising the myth of
the Sudans cordiality. In the second day of his stay at the village, he begins reconsidering his nostalgic feelings and romantic ideas about the paradise-like village and the angel-like people. He discovers that the village that used to constitute his dreams and imagination is no longer there. Instead, another transformed reality has taken place. In the new village, pumps are used in place of water-wheels, iron ploughs instead of wooden ones, and whisky and beer became the favourite beverage of the villagers instead of arak and millet wine (100). He notices that the village has lost its peculiarity and charm and became a place of contradictions. It is neither modern nor traditional, but hybrid: From my position under the tree I saw the village slowly undergo a change: the water-wheels disappeared to be replaced on the bank of the Nile by pumps, each one doing the work of a hundred water-wheels. I saw the bank retreating year after year in front of the thrusting of the water, while on another part it was the water that retreated. Sometimes strange thoughts would come to my mind. Seeing the bank contracting at one place and expanding at another, I would think that such was life: with a hand it gives, with the other it takes. (5) The invasion of Western modernity couldnt put an end to old and archaic practices, such as patriarchy. A case in a point is the arranged marriage of Wad Rayyes, one of the


inhabitants of the village known by his several marriages, with the widow of Mustafa Said,
Hosna Bint Mahmoud; a marriage which caused enormous chaos in the village when Hosna killed Wad Rayyes and later her self. The village thus embodies the dual face of life in postcolonial Sudan. The position of women in this changing world of the village/ Sudan remains the same, for liberating women is not convenient for the male members of the community. Therefore, they remain subject to marginality, oppression and silencing carefully and

systematically conducted by patriarchal dominated culture. They are not allowed the opportunity to function and express themselves freely, but are controlled and spoken about. Worse, they are considered as male properties; as something that belongs to men (99). Reacting angrily against his grandfathers traditional views about the role and position of women, the narrator affirms: Anger checked my tongue and I kept silent. The obscene pictures sprang simultaneously to my mind and to my extreme astonishment, the two pictures merged: I imagined Hosna Bint Mahmoud, Mustafa Saeeds widow, as being the same woman in both instances: two white, wide-open thighs in London, and a woman groaning before dawn in an obscure village on a bend of the Nile under the weight of the aged Was Rayyes. If that other thing was evil, this too was evil, and if this was like death and birth, the Nile flood and the wheat harvest, a part of the system of the universe, so too was that. I pictured Hosna Bint Mahmoud, Mustafa Saeeds widow, a woman in her thirties, weeping under seventy-year-old Wad Rayyes. Her weeping would be made the subject of Was Rayyess famous stories about his many women with which he regales the men of the village. (8687)


As it is made clear in this extract, the problem of the Sudanese women is with the oppressive male patterns of power that organise the relationship between sexes. Women, from this perspective, are reduced to mere objects of desire whose function is to satisfy mens sexual instinct and desire.
This dual image of the village is, to some extent, part of the process of colonialism and Westernisation. The narrator connects the villages changes with the coming of Mustafa Said, who embodies in his character the cultural clash between East and West as well as the violence of British colonialism. The peculiarity of Saids character and self-confidence attract the attention of the narrator. Amongst the people who came to greet the narrator after his return from his northern journey was Mustafa Said, a man of medium height, of around fifty or slightly older (2). Since their first meeting, Mustafa Saids enigma evokes the curiosity of the narrator to the extent that he decides to reveal the secret around it, especially when he showed no interest in the narrators stories about his European journey: I do not know what exactly aroused my curiosity but I remembered that the day of my arrival he was silent. Everyone had put questions to me and I to them. They had asked me about Europe [] But Mustafa had said nothing. He had listened in silence, sometimes smiling; a smile which, I now remember was mysterious, like someone talking to himself (3-4). Mustafa Said can be regarded as a disobedient child of colonialism and a symbol of the failure of British enlightening and enslaving mission. In his childhood, Said was chosen by the colonial regime to follow a British education, first in a local school at his village, then in Cairo and later at the University of London, where he was appointed as a lecturer of Economics. While a child, Said was approached by a man dressed in a British uniform who asked him whether he liked to go to school. Answered Said he would like to, but only if he


would wear a turban like the one the man is wearing. The British soldier laughed and corrected him that what he has on is not a turban, but a hat: this is isnt a turban, he said. It is a hat. (20). When the man wanted to do a favour to the child by placing his hat on his head, Saids whole face disappeared inside it (20). This incident is symbolic enough as it shows that colonial educational mission is meant by to demolish ones identity and make the natives absorb and believe in the values and virtues assigned to them; to teach them to submit, be convenient and say Yes. In her discussion of the novel, Benitta Parry remarks that Saids educational history is a symbolic journey of natal displacement, alienation from the English and revenge against the North, pieced together and reworked by the narrator from the spoken and written words of a tormented immoralist and angry anti-colonialist consumed by ressentimenta concept, according to Frederic Jameson, devised by late-nineteenth century ideology to explain not only the revolt of mobs, but also the revolutionary vocation of disaffected intellectuals (74). Mustafa Said assigns himself the mission of revenging to his people from the former coloniser, by causing pain to British women. The body of his British lovers becomes the arena where Said has conducted his violent revenge. In his discussion of the novel, Saree Makdissi notices that Saids reaction against the violent crimes of imperialism is fought on a personal level and powered by Arab war metaphors. Makdisi points out that Saids conquests are couched not only in terms of military operations in general, but in terms of traditional Arab military campaigns in particular: going to meet new victims is described in terms of saddling his camel; the process of courtship is compared to laying siege, involving tents, caravans, the desert, and so forth (811). By doing so, he wants to bring back to the British their disease of violence and invading them in the heart of their country: Yes, my


dear sirs, I came as an invader into your very homes: a drop of the poison which you have injected into the veins of history (95). Another element which highlights the novels reactionary spirit against the colonial rule is the investment of historical registers of religious confrontations between Muslims and the Crusaders. The symbolic importance of recollecting this historical process brings to light East/West sensibilities and what Samuel Huntington called the clash of civilisations. For

ages, Muslims and Christians consider each others as a real danger that threatens ones religious and cultural identity. Since the invasion of Spain by the Arabs at the 8th century and that of Jerusalem by the Crusaders, the two poles and religions were never in peace:
For a moment I imagined to myself the Arab soldiers first meeting with Spain: like me at this instant sitting opposite Isabella Seymour, a southern thirst being dissipated in the mountain passes of history in the north (42). Similar memories are going to come to the surface when Said was judged for murdering his English wife: I hear the rattle of the swords in Carthage and the clatter of hooves of Allenbys horses desecrating the ground of Jerusalem (94-5). Within this context of embattlement and misunderstanding emerged

Saids extreme attitudes towards the West. His hatred and revenge are inspired by ancient hostile sentiments which have a history. For Saree Makdisi, the date of birth of Mustafa Said is linked with an important moment in the history of the Sudan. 1898, the date of birth of Said, is the year of the bloody defeat of Mahdist forces by Kitcheners army in the battle of Omdurman, which signalled the final collapse of Sudanese resistance to British encroachment (811). Symbolic enough is the year 1956Said disappears in this year, may be drowning in the Nile, but we are never sure. To be precise, on January the 1st , 1956 the Sudan becomes an independent country. It seems, then, as if Mustafa Saids resentment plays itself out in accordance with Frederic Jamesons account of


Nietzsches negative category as the revenge of the slaves upon the masters and an ideological ruse whereby the former infect the latter with a slave mentality () in order to rob them of their natural vitality and aggressive, properly aristocratic insolence (Parry 80). To carry out his historical revenge, Said relies on his academic knowledge so as to dismantle and subvert the systems of power that give rise and contribute in the formation and emergence of British colonial power. After the dubious disappearance of Said, the narrator wants to solve the enigma of Saids past; therefore, he decides to enter Saids private room reserved to his souvenirs and private collections. When he gets in, he finds an enormous collection of books from different fields of knowledge: poetry, mathematics, history, economics, psychology etc. Among these books, he finds a number of publications written by Mustafa Said himself: The books I could see in the light of the lamp that they were arranged in categories. Books on economics, history and literature. Zoology. Geology. Mathematics. Astronomy. The Encyclopaedia Britannica. Gibbon. Macaulay. Toynbee. The complete works of Bernard Shaw. Keynes. Tawney. Smith. Robinson. The Economics of Imperfect competition. Hobson Imperialism. Robinson An essay on Marxian Economics. Sociology. Anthropology. Psychology. Thomas Hardy. Thomas Mann. E.G. Moore. Thomas Moore. Virginia Woolf. Wittgenstein. Einstein. Bierly. Namier. Books I had heard of and others I had not. Volumes of poetry by poets of whom I did not know the existence. The Journals of Gordon. Gullivers Travels. Kipling. Housman. The History of French Revolution Thomas Carlyle. Lectures on the French Revolution


Lord Acton. Books bound in leather. Books in paper covers. Old tattered books that looks as if theyd just come straight from the printers. Huge volumes the size of tombstones. Small books with gilt edges the size of packs playing cards. Signatures. Words of dedication. Books in boxes. Books on the chairs. Books on the floor. What play is acting this? What does he mean? Owen. Ford. Madox Ford. Stefan Zweig. E. G. Browne. Laski. Hazlitt. Alice in the Wonderland. Richards. The Koran in English. The Bible in English. The Economics of Colonialism Mustafa Saeed. The Cross and Gunpowder Mustafa Saeed. Prospero and Caliban. Totem and Taboo. Doughty. Not a single Arabic book. A graveyard. A mausoleum. An insane idea. A prison. A huge joke. A treasure chamber. (137-8). Foucaults concern of the link between knowledge and power helps in setting up a linkage between Saids massive book collections and his revenging mission5. Singling out the intellectual mechanisms that play part in the emergence and elaboration of British colonial mission, Said formulates, thanks to his readings, his own anti-colonial strategies; a corresponding conceptual system through which he could problematise the different forms of domination that settle underneath British colonial discourse. The thesis that Said wants to prove is that British colonial body of knowledge condenses statements and ways of dealing, thinking and seeing the Sudan which in turn help in the emergence of the colonial power. British presence in the area was not driven by any noble motives, such as

After the failure of the leftist uprising in May 1968, Michel Foucault aimed this time not at investigating the social conditions of knowledge as elaborated in his book, The Order of Things, but at investigating the practice of power through social systems. In his inaugural lecture, The Order of Discourse, after his appointment to the Collge de France in 1970, Foucault drew up the major lines of his future work, by stating that discourse is a complex network of social, political and cultural relations in which become apparent the ways by which language, at the level of signs, is produced as a discourse, carrying beneath its surface power and danger. For more information, see Rosi Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991.


that of civilising and educating the brutes as claimed by one of his professors at Oxford: You, Mr Saeed, are the best example of the fact that our civilizing mission in Africa is of no avail (93). For him, British presence in the region was purely for economic and political reasons, as the American-Palestinian thinker, Edward Said, developed later in his book Orientalism (1978): my contention is that without examining Orientalism as a discourse one cannot possibly understand the enormously systematic discipline by which European culture was able to manage and produce the Orient politically, sociologically, militarily, ideologically, scientifically, and imaginatively during the postEnlightenment period (3). If Britain has used knowledge and its advanced weapons to claim power over his people, Said also used similar strategies, but this time by employing his intellect and his sexual capacities to accomplish his campaign. Saids domineering personality causes him big troubles in his life. As the outcome of his suspicious love affairs with a number of British women ended up with an act of murder and a trial, Said loses his job at the university and was forced to leave London. In the narrative, there is a parallel between the situation of Said and that of Shakespeares Othello. While seducing his English victims, Said identifies himself with Othello. He asserts that he and Othello share the same origin and belong to the same race: Im like Othello Arab-African (38). Like Said, Othello is a Moor, an Arab hero who managed to
obtain a high military and civil position in the Western Venetian society. He is also the product of European civilisation that turned him from a historical enemy, to a servant of European interests. He, too, was married to a European and killed her out of revenge. Though Said shares with Othello these qualities, he believes that the character of Othello is simply a lie; a stereotypical representation of Arabs as unreasonable and hot tempered folk, which evokes the complex confrontations of Self/Other. According to Ferial Ghazoul, the


relationship of the modern Arab World to modern Europe is based neither on equality nor on fraternity, but on dependency and subjugation, the literary dialogue between the two is likely to be sharp and polemical. The history of a text like Othello will necessarily show a variety of such reactions, starting with pleasure derived from the presence of the Self in the canon of the Other, to anger and the deformation of the Self in a distorting mirror (1).

However, Said, while in court, starts to think again when he sees that his lawyer, Professor Maxwell Foster-Keen, pictures him as a helpless victim of the colonial process; as a person who has no command on his behaviour: Mustafa Saeed, gentlemen of the jury, is a noble person whose mind was able to absorb Western civilisation but broke his heart. These girls were not killed by Mustafa Saeed but by the germ of a deadly disease that assailed them a thousand years ago (33). As a reaction against this parallelism, though implicitly, between his case and that of Othello, Said thinks to himself that his situation is different. It occurred to him that he should stand up and say to them: this is untrue, a fabrication. It was I who killed them. I am the desert of thirst. I am no Othello. I am a lie. Why dont you sentence me to be hanged and so kill the lie? (33). In a later instance in the novel, the narrator recalls Saids words he wished he had uttered at the court: Yes, my dear sirs, I came as an invader into your very homes: a drop of the poison which you have injected into veins of history. I am no Othello. Othello was a lie (95). Said insists that Othello does not exist, a lie, because he is a fabrication and a product of Western imagination that exoticises and estranges the Other in order to show that this Other stands in the opposite side of the European Self, as unreasonable, immoral and untrustworthy. Saids invocation of Othello either as a weapon for seduction or as a mental note expressed in defence is a pivotal concept for understanding the notion of cultural contagion for Season of Migration to the North (Geesey, Cultural 134). 42

The traditional cultural struggle between East/West, coloniser/colonised, master/slave and Self/Other is at the core of Sallehs narrative. This dialectic between
these distinct and contradictory worlds is part of the discourse of postcolonialism and characteristic of nations having been affected by the experience of colonialism and imperialism. Said resists the idea of being coined with Othello because he does not want to inhabit an in-between space; to become hybrid as Othello, who is an archetypal mirage that stands between the cultures of the West and the East (Geesey, Cultural 135). As an intellectual, he is aware of the trap of hybridity, for he is by no means an emblem of cultural hybridity, whose character is the resulting offspring from the colonial union of Great Britain and Arabo-African nation of the Sudan [] a less than happy intermingling of East and West as Patricia Geesey suggests (Cultural 129). On the contrary, Said represents a pure and uncontaminated spirit of the Sudan; one of the warriors of Omdurman who did not give up but continues the struggle against the invaders till dropping them out of the land. He disappears only after establishing peace and restoring life in the Sudan to its earlier order before the coming of the British. The only character in the novel who is hybrid is the narrator because he is the one who is affected by East/West cultural contact. Unlike Said, the narrator inhabits the third space or the in-between space since he carries the mission of mediating between two extremes. He passes perfectly in Bhabhas formula of third world or postcolonial intellectuals. Homi K. Bhabha argues: It is significant that the productive capacities of this Third Space have a colonial or post-colonial provenance. For a willingness to descend into that alien territory where I have led you may reveal that the theoretical recognition of the split-space of enunciation may open the way to conceptualising an international culture, based not on the exoticism or multi-culturalism of the diversity of cultures, but on the


inscription and articulation of cultures hybridity. To that end we should remember that it is the inter the cutting edge of translation and negotiation, the in-between, the space of the entre that Derrida has opened up writing itself that carries the burden of the meaning of culture. It makes it possible to begin envisaging national, anti-nationalist, histories of the people. It is this space that we will find those words with which we can speak of Ourselves and Others. And by exploring this hybridity, this Third Space, we may elude the politics of polarity and emerge as the others of our selves. (209) In addition to negotiating between his Oriental self and the Occidental Other, the narrator fulfils the position of Derridas entre modernism and traditionalism. Not long after his arrival, the narrator discovers that the characteristics which used to give the village its special peculiarity start to fade away, giving place to other modern aspects. Though he feels for a while disappointed, the narrators stand remain neutral with regard to these transformations, for he is aware of the fact that his village could not remain forever authentic and unaffected by the wind of change. Actually, what upsets him most and makes him reconsider his idealistic ideas is the double face of the village. As Mahjoub, a friend of the narrator, affirms, some things have changed pumps instead of water-wheels, iron ploughs instead of wooden ones, sending our daughters to school, radios, cars, learning to drink whisky and beer instead of arak and millet wine yet even so everythings as it was (100). The allusion here is to the practice of patriarchy, deep rooted in the villages culture. In a mocking voice, Mahjoub tells the narrator that it is an out-and-out impossibility to eradicate such practices. The villages reaction to Hosnas murdering of her imposed husband Wad Rayyes shows that life in the village is still governed by traditional customs. Being a woman, Hossna is left with no other choice but to marry that old man, even though she hates


him, simply because her father could not withdraw his promise: A week or ten days after you went away her father said he had given Was Rayyes a promise and they married her off to him. Her father swore at her and beat her; he told her shed marry him whether she liked it or not (122). For the villagers, Hosna is associated with the devil because she does not accept to continue playing old roles (108). She wants to assert her own identity as a free woman who can decide for herself. Her decision finds no response either in her life or after her death; her act is covered with a complete silence and becomes one of the villages taboos since Its the first time anything like that has happened in the village since God created (124). After knowing the reasons behind Hosnas act of murder, the narrator starts revising his ideas towards his village and people. They are no longer the people we recall from the early pages of the narrative, but a mad folk: Hosna wasnt mad, the narrator says, She was the sanest woman in the village its you whore mad (132). Immediately after this discovery, the narrator decides to seek revenge from Mustafa Said. For him, it is Said, who should be blamed for what happened, because he brought with him the seeds of European violence: The world has turned suddenly upside down. Love? Love does not do this. This hatred. I feel hatred and seek revenge; my adversary is within and I needs must confront him. Even so, there is still in my mind a modicum of sense that is aware of the irony of the situation. I begin from where Mustafa Saeed had left off. Yet he at least made a choice, while I have chosen nothing. (134) After the tragic incident, the narrator realises that he has to step back from the space of inbetweeness and take a position. To do so, he figures out that he needs to confront himself, by making a journey deep into his self. The secret room of Said is made symbolic of the narrators dark side of his psyche. Inside Saids dark room, it appears to the narrator that


Mustafa Said was emerging out of darkness and teasing him with a devilish smile. Moving towards him with hate in his heart, he discovers that the image of his adversary Said is an illusion. The image he saw is of himself, not that of Said: It was my adversary Mustafa Saeed. The face grew a neck, the neck two shoulders and a chest, then a trunk and two legs, and I found myself standing face to face with myself. This is not Mustafa Saeed its a picture of me frowning at my face in the mirror (135). This realisation echoes that the narrator has a dual personality (his personality and that of Said) and embodies dual cultures (East/West) and two ways of life (traditional/modern). To Muhammed Siddiq, the reflection of the narrators face in the mirror inside Mustafas room is a typical feature of the double in literature (85). Siddiq suggests that the novels web of correspondences point out that Said is indeed the narrators alter ego. He concludes that The motif of the double is reinforced by Mustafas leaving the key to his private room to the narrator, making him guardian of his children, and the narrators falling in love with Mustafas widow Hosna. One stylistic element in particular contributes to this: throughout the novel not one extended dialogue takes place between Mustafa and the narrator. They exchange a few sentences here and there, but in the main either one or the other is alone at the centre of the stage. After Mustafas death the two voices begin to coalesce until it becomes virtually impossible to tell with certainty which one is speaking. (87)

Playing the game of forgetting is what the narrator of Season conforms to at the end.
After cleaning up the dark space of his psyche, the narrator decides to heal himself and break free from Saids influences. He starts asking existential questions about the self in its relation with the collective memory as well as about the nature of the relationship between East and West. He wonders:


Was it likely that what had happened to Mustapha Saeed could have could have happened to me? He had said that he was a lie, so was I also a lie? I am from hereis not this reality enough? I too had lived with them. But I had lived with them superficially, neither loving nor hating them. I used to treasure within me the image of this little village, seeing it wherever I went with the eye of my imagination. (49) It seems at the first sight that the narrator, like Said, is contaminated by the germ of violence and the historical hatred to the West. Shocked by his discovery, the narrator decides to start the healing process; he enters the water of the Nile in order to dispel his anger by swimming: I began swimming towards the northern shore. I went on swimming and swimming till the movements of my body settled down into restful harmony with the forces of the river. I was no longer thinking as I moved forward through the water. The impact of my arms as they struck the water, the movement of my legs, the sound of my heavy breathing, the reverberation of the river and the noise of the pump puttering on the shore these were only noises. I continued swimming and swimming, resolved to make the northern shore. That was the goal (166-67). This insistence to reach the northern side of the river is symbolic of the purification process. The river is an emblem of change and marks the climax and the resolution of the existential dilemma of the narrator. He realises that he must choose either to be the successor of Mustafa Said and continue his journey to the north so as to go on with his endless revenge, or to follow the rivers current which pushes him to the southern shore, to his roots. After this moment, there is no place for in-betweeness. At the end he chooses to purify himself in the water of the Nile and re-establish his relationship with the world: In myths and dreams the act of crossing a river commonly represents self-transformation, and this usually takes place in the middle of the river (Siddiq 104). He comes to a simple conclusion that if one cannot


forgive, he or she can at least forget for life to go on because there are few people [he] wants to stay with for the longest possible time and because he has duties to discharge [ he] shall live by force and cunning (168-9).

To sum up, the context of struggle between Europe and its Others and the search for a better way to assert ones local identity form the focus of Tayyib Salehs Season of Migration to the North. I have argued that the novel provides two distinct views about how to deal with the burdens of the colonial heritage and how to approach the idea of the nation properly and realistically: either to forget about the past and compromise or to be a duplicate of Don Quixote and fight the windmills. It has been argued that Saids historical hatred of the West and his revenge strategies were doomed to failure and have proven inadequate. They did not lead to destabilising the West and its institutions, but rather to his own decline as he was forced to live in the margin of the world, in a subSaharan village for he does not want to forget about his national myths and insists in revenging and repairing the damages of the colonial past. Unlike Said, the narrator of Season manages at the end to reconsider his ideas and bridge the gap between himself and his people and the West. He comes to the conclusion that he has to forget about Saids revenge and about what happened in the historical experience. He frees himself from all ideologies that govern the relations of power between East and West and chooses to continue his life with no complexities with the people he loves, in a country to which he belongs. Though having different views about the relationship between West and East, both Saids and the narrators characterisation triggers the question of national identity and the management of Western colonial painful heritage. It calls for the revision of ones ideas about the national imagining and myths and the promotion of the culture of dialogue, forgiveness and tolerance, so as to avoid the mistakes of the past. 48

IV. The Myth of Nationalism and the Production of Cultural Memory in Mohammed Brradas The Game of Forgetting Like Tayyib Sallehs novel Season of Migration to the North, the Moroccan leading critic and writer, Mohamed Berrada, tries in his first novel, The Game of Forgetting, to provide two distinct views about Moroccan identity in relation to modernity and antiquity; present and past; and private and communal. The novel also deals with other issues of great importance to post-colonial Morocco, namely how to write our personal and collective memory, by reinterpreting the nations colonial history and the sensibilities of the post-independence era. Offering imaginative challenges to the countrys actual situation characterised by corruption, poverty, injustice etc, The Game seeks to put into question the personal and the collective history, in an attempt to spot the flaws of the past and search for explanations to the miserable conditions of the postindependence Morocco. Literature, then, becomes an important medium which helps in diagnosing the nature of evil as well as bearing witness. Essential to Berradas The Game of Forgetting is the illumination of the life and times of contemporary Morocco. The novels concern with colonial history, political corruption, the idea of justice and the transfer of power reflect on the diseased political and economic situation. Within this context, the novel presents a varying conception of daily Moroccan life before and after the fall of the colonial regimes. Furthermore, it enriches our apprehension of the complex history of the country through the production of a cultural memory. According to Jan Assmann and others, cultural memory is described as the process through which society reconstructs the past within its


contemporary frame of reference (130). The promise of cultural memory is to provide counter memories of the past; memories which are somehow deemed closer to the past experience of ordinary people (Rigney, Portable 365). The main concern of the production of cultural memory is the question of how the past and the present can interact with and be linked to each other. In this chapter, I will discuss the use of literature in the production of cultural memory, focusing particularly on Mohamed Berradas novel The Game of Forgetting. I also intend to read the novel as an allegory of a society in transition, for its plot and events allow such a reading. The concept of cultural memory will form the theoretical material on which I will rely in my analysis and discussion. In this respect, I will try to provide an answer to the question of how literature functions in relation to cultural memory; that is to say, how the novel, as a work of art, can bear witness to the nations past and present and contribute in memory making. I will try to show that the liaison between literature and cultural memory is best manifested in The Game of Forgetting since it manages to question, negotiate and reconstruct the past within the contemporary frame of reference of present-day Morocco. I will also try to tackle the concept of national identity as an imaginative construct. I will illustrate how the myth of nationalism is at once controlled, selected, organised and distributed according to certain number of procedures, so as to establish an imagined national community and achieve political and personal gain. The concept of Imagined Communities as developed by Benedict Anderson in his book under the same title will be of great help to the discussion of national discourse in the novel.


In recent years, memory studies enjoy an increasing level of importance in the field of the humanities. This importance originates from the antagonistic stance that the discussion of memory takes concerning history and its mechanisms. Contemporary studies of memory aim at reconsidering standardised history by trying to understand how memory functions, so as to propose other versions of the past missed from or dropped of official historical records. In this context, memory opens up new perspectives in dealing with the past; perspectives which can be defined in opposition to hegemonic views of the past and associated with groups who have been left out, as it were, of mainstream history (Rigney, Plenitude 13). The promise of memory studies aims to rebuild and recover the hidden and forgotten past as well as to show the impossibility of providing a complete version of the past which remains beyond representation and perception. In the flourishing field of memory studies, literature attains a crucial position as a memorial medium thanks to its ability to construct and produce collective images and ideas of the past. Most theoreticians who study memory rely on the achievements of the French sociologist Maurice Halbwachs, who defines memory in terms of collectively shared experiences and occurrences of the past. Halbwachs emphasises that memory is an original lived memory (mmoire vcue) that is carried and hence kept alive by the participants in some original experience. This lived memory is constantly on the brink of extinction or erosion with the passage of time as the richness of experience fades and those who did the experiencing die out. At a certain point, the only way for the memory to survive is to be written down (Rigney, Plenitude 12). Halbawachs objectification of memory forms the core of cultural memory studies. Jan Assmann develops Halbawachs ideas, by juxtaposing communicative memory a variant of collective


memory and cultural memory. Assmann describes communicative memory as an everyday communication process affected by temporality, instability and disorganisation, whereas cultural memory comprises that body of reusable texts, images, and rituals specific to each society in each epoch whose cultivation serves to stabilise and convey that societys self image (Assmaan 132). Clearly, cultural memory is a materialised medium which employs written texts, images and monumental sites in order to produce information about a collective historical context or past events. These objects of culture, also known as figures of memory, are meant to preserve communitys memories for the longest amount of time possible. Among the many characteristics of cultural memory is its ability to reconstruct the past, by relating it to actuality and giving it new meaning. Assmann argues that cultural memory occurs in two forms: in the mode of potentiality and in that of actuality. He points out that cultural memory exists in two modes: first in the mode of potentiality of the archive whose accumulated texts, images, and rules of conduct act as a total horizon, and a second in the mode of actuality, whereby each contemporary context puts the objectivised meaning into its own perspective, giving it its own relevance (130). These distinctions imply that representing and reconstructing the past is fluid. That is to say, it can move (forward and backward) from communicative memory to that of potential and actual cultural memories. In the process, however, it changes its meaning and intensity. The Game of Forgetting offers a good example of what I have discussed so far concerning the concept of cultural memory and its variations. The main concern of the novel is to provide its own vision of both traditional and modern Moroccan society, by creating a tension between tradition and innovation as well as desire and responsibility. It


can be read as a political text which deals with the deception of the whole nation in living in peace, dignity and prosperity. Al-Hadis account, the central figure of the narrative, is made emblematic of the post-independence generation. He is brought up in the novel suffering from identity crisis caused, on the personal level, by the death of his mother, Lala Lghalya and, on the communal, by the diseased social and political state in Morocco. The character of Al-Hadi represents the post-colonial intellectuals torn between their utopia of a better society and the deformed actual reality. Other characters in the novel are as important as Al-Hadi, such as the mother, Lala Lghalya, the sister, Najjiya, the brother, Tayyi and the brother-in-law, Si-Brahim. Through this mixture of characters, voices, perspectives, memories etc, Berrada suggests two models of Moroccaness6. In the first modelits representative is Al-Hadithe individual is neither socially nor culturally bound. He or she is free to shape his or her life according to the necessities of modern life. In the second model, however,--its representatives are the restthe individual is limited and subject to the stagnant rules dictated by society, religion and tradition. He or she is left with no other choice, but to follow the paths of the ancestors and to function within a closed space controlled by Arabo-Islamic tradition and culture. Read in this way, the novel is deeply concerned with the production of a layered process of consciousness as it can be located within the current Moroccan discourse on political corruption and social and economic backwardness. The novel does not provide an answer to whose model can be representative of Moroccan national identity. Berrada leaves his text open to many

On studies of modern Moroccan novel, especially Mohammed Berradas The Game of Forgetting, see the following works in Arabic and English: Edwar al-Kharrat, Zawahir f-Rriwaya al Maghribiyya, An-Naqid 39 (1990): 18-23; Al-Habib Dayem Rappi, Al-Kitaba-Atanass wa Oufoq al-Intidar fi Mraat Anissyan, Al-Adab 5/6 (2003): 93-95; Magda Al-Nowaihi, Commited Postmodernity: Mohammed Berradas The Game of Forgetting, Critique 15 (1999): 1-24; Issa J. Boullatta, Translators Introduction, The Game of Forgetting by Mohammed Berrada, Quartet Books: London, 1997.


interpretations so as to emphasise that Moroccan reality is, after all, a complex and hybrid phenomenon. The novel can be considered as a text of searching and remembering le temps perdu through the illumination of the life of certain people and the memories of a number of places that are connected in the collective Moroccan memory with specific histories. The world of the novel is governed by two principles: forgetting/remembering and playing. These two components are made clear in the title, in which playing is made inevitable for the act of forgetting/remembering. To forget/remember, one needs to play a psychological game with ones memory and collective history so as to shed light on le temps perdu and free the self from the burdens of memory. The technique of illumination and obscuration is part of this strategy of playing aimed by to fill the blanks of the text or to obscure some events on purpose so as to stimulate the readers curiosity and make him or her put into scrutiny essential notions of truth, inconsistencies and interruptions which mark contemporary Moroccan history. In her discussion of the novel, Magda Al-Nowaihi argues that the narrative acknowledges the limitation of ones ability to remember and forget past events, for this psychological operationindirectly, the intellectual game of historyis characterised by tension, conflict and contradictions which are explored and debated but that seem ultimately irreconcilable, yet it remains deeply committed in its questions and quests, and the struggles within it do not close it off, but instead involve it in a struggle with, and for, its world (Committed 3). Another principle which governs the world of the novel is that of forgetting; forgetting episodes, events, incidents etc either on a communal or on a personal level. In this sense, the act of forgetting becomes an Utopia and a quixotic attempt to liberate the


self from the constraints of the past and to retain history. Therefore, remembering, though unwillingly, substitutes forgetting so as to destabilise the imagined and relative boundaries between what is abstract and concrete. The real and imaginative possibilities interact with each other through the game of remembering and forgetting to point out that the self is neither autonomous nor fixed, but a social, political and cultural construct. The same can be applicable to the community which is also a construct of various cultural, political and religious factors, since members of even the smallest nations will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion (Anderson 2). What Berrada tries to show is the impossibility of assuming absolute and definite certainties and histories either of the individual or of the community. All what we can have and make of ourselves, past and histories is to try to play the game of forgetting and remembering in an attempt to create a world which exists as an untold story: History has more than one level or stream, and seldom does it really coincide with what happens on the surface and is represented by resounding events. You still live in a society that has not yet written its ancient history, let alone the fact that its modern history is surrounded with secrecy and its documents are hidden in sealed vaults so that the people of this kingdom will remain pre-occupied with their future. And historians, as you know, keep changing their ink from time to time. (Berrada, The Game 128) At the core of Barradas narrative is the fusion between what Ann Rigney calls the original plenitude and the subsequent loss (12). According to Rigney, the model of plenitude and loss implies that memory is the sum of experiences and occurrences


wholly shaped in the past. It is concerned with looking for adequate forms to store and make past memories operative and accessible. Experience, however, has proved that memory can never be definitive and complete since it is subject to subsequent loss caused by the ravages of time in the process of handing it down from one group or generation to another (Plenitude 12-13). It is exactly this model of memory that Barradas narrative adopts. At the formal level, the novel has seven chapters which spotlight the life and memories of ordinary people who are, sometimes, given the opportunity to tell events and incidents from their own perspectives. The use of polyphony helps in presenting the subject matter from varying standpoints, for all characters contribute in restoring their personal and collective memory from demolishment through narrating what they experienced, witnessed or heard. The text contains three levels of presenting the events: illuminationis told often by the family members and the neighbours obscuration here we find only Al-Hadi speakingand the supremeis narrated by the narrators narrator who intervenes from time to time to correct some information, give his opinion or add new elements. In the narrative, Berrada entrusts Al-Hadis and others memories the function of revealing and recording the hidden past(s) of specific ordinary folk; a desire which intends to establish individuals and communitys unique identity and historical experience. The mother, as a figure of memory, forms the centre of the process of remembering since the novel starts and ends with a reference to her. She is described as the main pillar of the big house and the centre of attention of its inhabitants. Her devotion to customs and tradition makes her indispensable, like salt in food, in the social sphere of the old city of Fez (17). In this respect, the presence of the mother becomes necessary


to reanimate the everyday life and to give it continuity. The mother in a sense is made emblematic of traditional modes of life in Moroccan society: Even in tense moments between us, I used to find in her that self-necessitating existence which challenges my anger, my rebellions, my artificial illusions. She has always been like a root striking deep in the depths of the earth, unshaken by storms, unscathed by hurricanes. Her existence precedes and extends: it infiltrates into my pores to remind me, whenever I forget, that its burning flame does not get dim. It is like a yearning for ones homeland, like longing for the soil of ones birthplace, like songs of poetry latent in ones psyche. (135) The evoked memories of the mother are intimately connected with the authentic space of the city of Fez as a lieu de mmoire: the shining presence of her personality makes her seem like the roots of a tree extending far beyond this old house, which is firmly implanted in one of the alleys deep in the heart of Fez (20). In the history of Morocco, Fez attains a prestigious position, for it was the capital of many dynasties during Moroccan history. It was also, and still, the spiritual capital of the country and the Mecca of scholars and students from all over the Arabo-Islamic world. Some years ago, UNESCO declared it as a universal patrimony7. In this sense, Fez embodies the lost past; the authenticity and purity of rituals, space, times, life which have faded away with the death of the mother and the coming of the modern age. Rabat, the capital of Morocco, is another space that is connected with the figure of the mother. After the marriage of her daughter, Najjiya, to Si-Brahim, who works as a waiter in a French bar in the capital, the mother unwillingly moves from Fez to Rabat in

For more information, see <<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fes,-Morocco>>; <http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-Fes.html>>.


order to help her daughter in managing the household and helping her in raising her children. The movement of the mother from her native city has shocked all the inhabitants of the old house: Without Lala-Lghalyya, this house will loose its flavour. The women who encircled her know this fact well, two months before her departure. They remember all the scenes in which Lala-Lghalyya has been the shining star: the festive occasions, the periods of distilling orange blossoms, the times when one of them was sick, the spells when they had quarrels with their husbands LalaLghalyya invariably takes the initiative, offers a helping hand, gives gifts, laughs and tells jokes, invites women reciters to chant the Quran and eulogies of the Prophet, makes observations about some of her relatives who have become rich and now live in the new city or on the road to ImouzzerThe shining presence of her personality makes her seem like roots of a tree extending far beyond this old house, which is firmly implanted in one of the alleys deep in the heart of Fez. (Berrada, The Game 20) Unlike Fez, Rabat is regarded as the centre of the political power and linked with the emergence of the modern state. It is made synonymous with the unwilling political and social changes forced on the Moroccans. The space of Rabat is the opposite of Fez because here there is no place for caring, love, passion etc. It is the city of dull streets, stagnant life and gloomy faces It is the city of contradictions, modernity and power, where the fittest or the submissive can survive. Belonging to the second category, Lalalghalyya manages to survive in the metropolitan city without feeling part of it, whereas


Al-Hadi could not, which explains his constant movement from one place to another, Cairo, Madrid, Paris and Casablanca. The Game of Forgetting can be seen, in some ways, as bearing witness to the diseased political and social situation of postcolonial Morocco, manifested in the way the past is dealt with in the present. If we assume that there is no affinity between the space of Fez and Rabat, then, in one sense, the power systems in new Morocco remain the same as the colonial one, with a slight difference that the natives are holding the power now. That is to say, the deformed political and social conditions of Rabat are incompatible with the traditional and authentic sphere of Fez; incompatible with the countrys inherited customs and manners. Power transition from the French colonisers to the natives does not bring anything new to the citizens. Misery, injustice, exploitation, oppression etc are still there, even it become worse. The hope of Al-Hadi and his brother Tayyi and with them millions of Moroccans has been killed by the greed and egoism of a handful of opportunists who posses power. Rabats system of power is a deadly virus that resides deep in the heart of the country. Unlike the old order of Fez, the new one remains a perpetual problem in the absence of effective policies and reforms. The need to search for an effective model of dealing with the present without turning ones back to the past is very demanding, if the country wants to get out of the vicious circle in which it is trapped and the contest for power which does not solve anything. To put it in Magdas Al-Nouihi words: The postcolonial generation, however, no longer can see the enemy simply as the intruding other, whose disappearance automatically would lead to positive transformation. The world in which they live, in the words of the title of one of


the sections, has grown in their eyes. It has become more complex and confusing, and the enemy now lies within. Moroccans themselves must be held at least partly responsible for the lack for real change, and the two brothers are most bitter about the internal powers of corruption, deceit, and lack of vision. (13) Like Mohammed Berrada, Tayyib Salleh in his novel Season of Migration to the North provides a harsh criticism of Africas post-independence political elites. Among the many instances of criticising Africas corrupt rulers, one can mention the narrators conversation with a retired civil servant while he was on a train journey. The man tells the narrator about his stupidest schoolmates who become in the positions of power or one of the countrys nouveaux riches: When the train moved out of Kosti the conversation had brought us up to his school days. I learnt from him that a number of my chiefs at the Ministry of Education were contemporaries of his at school, some having been in the same form with him. the man mentioned that so-and-so at the Ministry of Agriculture was a schoolmate of his, that such-and-such an engineer was in the form above him, that so-and-so, the merchant whod grown rich during the war years, had been the stupidest creature in the form, and that the famous surgeon so-and-so was the best right-wing in the whole school at that time. (50-51) Like this retired civilian, Tayyi, the brother of The Game of Forgettings protagonist, grows sceptical about the possibility of change (81). After more than thirty years of serving the nation, Tayyi starts loosing faith in his national ideals. He realises that his national enthusiasm is an illusion. To get out of the vicious circle powered by national myths, Tayyi decides to act on an individual scale and seek self-salvation in Islam. By


means of Tayyis disillusionment, Mohammed Berrada wants to reveal the uselessness and often danger of rationally based action directed at changing either society or the discourse that governs its representation (Wasserman 55). Though each nation experiences self-determination and patriotism in different ways, Season and The Game seem to encounter nationalism from the same perspective, namely as a national imagining. The term National Imagining or Imagined Communities, as discussed by Benedict Anderson, designates that Nationalism and the sense of belonging to particular communities are constructs of various cultural, political and religious factors. Nations, according to Anderson, create this sense of belonging through conveying cultural significance to figures of memory, such as cenotaphs and tombs of Unknown Soldiers. These monuments are modern inventions because earlier communities did not know such practices. This clarifies why most nations have such monuments without feeling any necessity to indicate the nationality of their absent occupiers. In this context, the sense of belonging which kept haunting Seasons narrator during his stay abroad or the myths of nationalism which were behind Tayyis retreat from practicing politics are imaginative and self-inventive constructs meant by to free the self from the burdens and the oppression of the deformed national reality which is the outcome of the failure of national development projects. In the formation of national imagining, religious thought plays a crucial role. For Anderson, religion gives an explanation to the enigma of immortality, generally by changing fatality into continuity. In 18th century Europe, religious modes of thought started losing their particularity, popularity and influence. Instead, new ideas emerged, namely that of rationalist secularism and national identity. The promise of these new


ideas was the reconsideration of religious dogmas, such as salvation and continuity. What was needed, according to those nationalists, was a secular transformation of fatality into continuity and doubt into certainty. It should not be understood from this that the emergence of nationalism was the result of the decline of religious authority. What Anderson wants to suggest is that nationalism has to be understood by aligning it, not with self-consciously held political ideologies, but with the large cultural systems that preceded it, out of whichas well as against whichit came into being (12). In the war of independence, Moroccan resisting movements used Islam as a source of inspiration and guidance in their struggle against the French intruders. They formulated their discourses and ideologies around the idea of establishing an Islamic State ruled by Islamic laws. Some of the important aspects of Moroccan nationalists thought are the sacredness of Islamic identity and militarism or Jihadism. They give religious discourse the supreme power; a power which ignores reason and replace it with mottos like I die and lives the Nation. In this context, Religion has an imagining and symbolic function which help in forming an imagined community, through guaranteeing happiness to the adherents in the after life or when, if ever, the Islamic State is established. By giving priority to religious belief, ones life becomes only a means through which a bigger goal, namely the dream of an Islamic State, can be achieved. For the leaders, the ultimate aim is to achieve political gains and claim power and for the martyrs is to die for the sake of the nation/God. Sacrificing ones life for the sake of the nation/God is and remains an abstract idea, for it could not be dealt with rationally. In short, the thought of nationalists was and is still governed by the utopia of an Islamic State8.

For a through discussion of this subject, see the special issue of Al-Adab 50. 5/6 (2002), especially Mohammed Sassis article Islamist Movements in Morocco: the Case of Modernisation pp. 117-133.


The use of religious thoughts in spreading national imagining is part and partial of Berradas narrative. At the closing pages of the fourth chapter, the reader comes across a reference to a press document that the narrators narrator claims to have received from the writer himself. This document, though issued by contemporary decision makers, is composed in a way similar to classical speeches and announcements, like those which used to be transmitted and popularised twenty years ago. What attracts attention in this extract is the extensive use of religious terminology, figures of speech and sonorous words which allude to the greatness and the blessings of Almighty God, remind people to be patient and united and praise the rulers right policies and decisions. By doing so, the state aims at drawing a parallel between its official nationalistic discourse and the religious one in order to give legitimacy to its acts and to fix, propagate and reproduce its own power structures. In this respect, religion is used as a hidden persuader and a crucial element in the process by which meaning is produced and exchanged between members of a culture. It does involve the use of language, of signs and images which stand for or represent things (Hall, 15). The spread of religious beliefs and communities all over the globe is impressive. According to Anderson, the immense religious communities, such as Islam, Christianity or Buddhism, are imaginable, for they are connected largely through the medium of a sacred language and written script (13). In this case, the documents use of classical Arabic language implies that what comes in the message is as true as that of religious texts whose truth is only accessible through the use of Arabic signs. Accordingly, religious communities do not only believe in the holiness of their languages, but also consider them unique signs to experience or present truth. Magda Al- Nouihi argues:


While the desire to recreate the self and the nation often is expressed in terns of a desire to find a new language, and with it new dreams and alternatives, the powers of authority certainly use language in ingenious ways that transform reality. This transformation, however, is one that will remain within a closed text. Its ultimate purpose is not to address a reality that it outside of language in order to change it, but rather to create a false, more beautiful version of it, thereby convincing the audience that the search for alternatives is not necessary. In doing so, it does not admit that it is presenting a reading of the external world, but rather claims that it is transcribing that world. It is its very claim to truth, to representing reality, that renders it dishonest and harmful. (16) It is not only the sacred language that makes communities imaginable, but also other components, such as the dynastic realm as an imagined political system. Kingships in most monarchies obtain their legitimacy not from the populations, but from the divine. In Morocco, for instance, the dynasties that succeeded in the course of centuries managed to claim power and transmit their ideologies, particularly by claiming their direct relationship with the Prophet Mohamed through the descendants of his only daughter Fatima-Zohra and her husband Ali Ben Abi-Talib. The Moroccan constitution9, for example, states that the king is the Prince of Believers; the supreme representative of the community; the symbol of its unity; and the granter of its stability and continuity. He is also described as the Protector of Religion and the rights and freedom of citizens, communities and institutions. One of the fundamental pillars of dynastic realm in Islam is

Article 19: Le Roi, Amir Al Mouminine, Reprsentant Suprme de la Nation, Symbole de son unit, Grant de la prennit et de la continuit de lEtat, veille au respect de lIslam et de la constitution. Il est le protecteur des droits et liberts des citoyens, groupes sociaux et collectivits. Il garanti lindpendance de la nation et lintgrit territoriale du Royaume dans ses frontires authentiques. Article 23 : La Personne du Roi est inviolable et sacre. <http://unpan1.uu.or/intradoc/groips/publie/documents/carfrad/upan004848.pdf>>. 10/02/2008


the principle of Al-baya, which is a sort of pledge of allegiance. In this way, Islamic kingships try to elaborate their own strategies and ideologies on religious grounds, so as to guarantee their legitimacy and propagandise official Islam powered and protected by the state. In the novel, there are two instances which reflect directly the secular and religious authority of the king. In the first case, the narrators narrator cites an incident happened to Al-Hadi while still a little child in Fez. He states that one summer morning of 1946 or 1947, police forces were showing around the allies of the old medina a person nicknamed Si Dubb [meaning in English the lizard] because he has raped a girl who was one of the early females to go to school in compliance with the call of the king Mohamed the fifth. This man was severely beaten on public not because of his crime of raping the girl, but for violating the orders of the king: Hadi was interested in knowing the details or, as you said, the details reached him from listening to the adults, who did not hesitate to tell everything in front of the children. They described how Si Dubb stood in the girls way as she was going home from school, took her by force to a nearby garden where he tortured her before cruelly raping her in a savage manner. Seeking mercy, he then took refuge in a shrine opposite that of Moulay Driss, where guilty persons often sought asylum. However, orders were issued to get him out of the shrine, because the matter was related to the nationalist movement and its symbols. (Berrada, The Game 59) In the second case, the omniscient narrator tells about the transitional period of Al-Hadi from childhood to maturity and how the nationalist feeling was one of the main factors behind this transformation. The narrator mentions an incident which becomes engraved in


the memory of Al-Hadi. The decision of the colonial regime to exile the king and his family to Corsica and Madagascar in 1953 was a big shock to all Moroccans who react aggressively against this act through set ups, demonstrations and violent operations. In order to assure the continuity of their discourse, the national leaders spread through different media the propaganda that the king is to be seen in the moons disc: The hot summer was long. News, rumours, conjectures multiplied. From house to house, news was communicated with lightning speed. Roof tops were crowded with women, men, and children at night: they all looked at the moon, searching for the features of Muhammad the Fifths face. The talk of the town had it that his face chose to reside in the moon so that, despite exile, he would abide with his people. In the quiet of night, loud shouts could be heard and winners were those whose imagination helped them to compose an image of the king and announce that he was actually seen smiling or laughing or frowningA nice game, nave perhaps, but useful in keeping up national ardour and enthusiasm. (Berrada, The Game 48) Most Moroccans at that time, and still, believe in this national fable and made themselves imagine that they indeed saw him up there in the moon in his traditional cloths. This national trick could not be successful if it was not powered by the principal of what Anderson calls as the dynastic realm. In this context, Andersons achievements are highly praised because they point out the importance of the image of the community in forming national identities. In addition to the problematic relationship between rulers and ruled, the issue of gender plays a crucial role in Berradas work. The narrative provides two examples of


Moroccan women: traditional and revolutionary. Mainly all female characters in the narrative are portrayed as helpless victims who are contempt with their destiny and the role assigned to them by society and tradition agreed upon in the social space of the old city of Fez [and Morocco in general], the implicit balance prevailing there between men and women, whereby she is allowed to be present and indispensable, like salt in food, but has to be behind a veil, because the inherited tribal values require that (17). Throughout the narrative, the mother remains silent, for she is not given the opportunity to tell about her experience, but spoken about either by one of her family members or others. Her presence/absence is characteristic of the Moroccan female who is there to fulfil specific functions, all of which are to be for the benefit of male members. She is either the caring mother or the object of desire. Between these two options Al-Hadi is caught up; between the allure of womens bodies and the motherly feeling: I remember childhood and immediately remember youth. I recall adolescence and immediately recall sucking the mothers nipple and that of the sweetheart (96). Not only traditional women are a repressed group; even more repressed, in the novel, are emancipated females, the representative of which is F.B, with whom Al-Hadi has a short love affair in Paris. F.B. is a Moroccan student, who came from Casablanca to Paris fleeing away from her fathers new wife. Her relation with Al-Hadi was purely sexual and intellectual. During their meetings, they discuss actual issuesthe philosophy of Sartre, Marx and Freudand satisfy their sexual desire. After their separation, they continue to write to each other and express their opinions and views about their personal and collective matters. The big problem of F.B. is her gender, being a woman in a patriarchal Moroccan society. F. Bs revolutionary character involves a critical


questioning of the power structures of the dominant masculine culture. F. Bs struggle to liberate herself from tribal male laws and restriction is meant to challenge the existing patterns of domination which govern the relationship between sexes. She feels not at ease with the fact that any privileges she enjoys have to be granted by a man and sees herself as part of a structure (bunya, or a construct) or a vision from which there is no escape (Al-Nouihi 6). F. B. failed at the end to establish her own independent identity because the liberal way of life she chose to live, experiencing the extreme state of the mind, the body and relationships, did not lead to her liberation, but to her destruction and decay (99). F.Bs attempts to free the self from males ideology and censor end in death of the victories of the dreamy, winged woman she used to be (100). In a recent novel by Mohammed Berrada, The Woman of Forgetting (2001), F. B. is given a main role. In the new novel, F.B. and the narrator are shown not at ease with the third millenniums Morocco. F.B. ends up as an isolated, lonely and broken woman in her apartment in Casablanca after returning definitely from Paris. Clearly, The Game of Forgettings plot helps to read the novel as a comment on the reality of the post-independence Morocco. Berrada in this novel and also in the rest of his works gives power and its mechanisms the leading role in shaping ones life. For Berrada, power systems in contemporary Morocco do not differ that much from the colonial ones because the country is still suffering from big problems of all kind, politically, socially and economically. No doubt the struggle for independence was fuelled by good and noble intentions, yet postcolonial governments were not effective enough to free the self and the community from the ruins of the colonial past and to offer a better life conditions to the people. The importance of literature as a medium of cultural


memory becomes a crucial instrument that bears witness to the past, by providing its counter-memory of what happened in the historical experience. Berradas The Game constantly seeks to provide its own views of the historical experience, by refusing to deal with the past with all its discontents as digestible historical events that end up in historical records. It has been mentioned that national discursive projects and strategies are powered by ghostly national imagining. I have mentioned that cultural roots of imagined communities, as discussed by Benedict Anderson, can be applicable to the discourse of the novel. The short clarification of the concept of imagined communities helps to shed light on how official political powers and nationalist movements take their legitimacy from Islam and how they use it as a way to establish an imagined national community. It has also been indicated how the production of the discourse of those in power are at once controlled, selected, organised and distributed according to certain number of procedures, so as to achieve political gain. Though the question of gender has not been dealt with in detail because the next chapter is to be devoted to the discussion of this problematic, I have argued how the novel mediates between two distinct views about Moroccan womens situation: submissive and revolutionary. I have shown that in a traditional society like Morocco, there is no place yet for liberal views embodied in the character of F. B. The mother and the rest of the novels women, though unhappy, master the social game and lived and died in silence because in their language there is no place for NO. F.B. however, ends up as a broken, isolated and lonely woman because she says No to patriarchal laws and prohibitions.


Though the debate is still going on about who is apt to speak about the past, whether memory or history, one can say that both and none. Differently put, both history and memory aim at transmitting past experiences to the future generation, each according to its ways and mechanisms. Nonetheless, they remain limited in their approaches. In the case of history, it is selective, subjective and man-made. To claim authenticity and truthfulness, for history, is impossible and out of reach at least at the moment. The same can be said about memory since it is also a constructive process that relies on memory which is by nature selective and subject to amnesia. Yet, compared with history, memory can be closer to the popular feelings and common people, for it is a spontaneous recovering of the past. These characteristics are what make the products of memory more authentic than the endless amount of facts restored in official historical records.

V. The Subaltern Writes Back in Assia Djebars LAmour, la Fantasia Unlike Tayyib Sallehs Season of Migration to the North or Mohammed Berradas The Game of Forgetting, Assia Djebar, an Algerian novelist, activist and filmmaker considered as one of the most important contemporary North African novelists


writing in French, presents the whole in her novel LAmour, la Fantasia from female perspectives. In her writings and films, Djebar tries to find a voice that resists silence, by pointing out the blanks, the interruptions and the unmarked spaces that characterise the intellectual history of Algerian women. This suggests that Djebar significantly and consciously interrogates and challenges patriarchal cultural patterns which have (un)consciously excluded Algerian women in particular, and Arab ones in general, from the rights of subjectivity throughout the Arabo-Islamic history. By way of giving voice to the silent, she aims not only at making the subaltern speak, by telling her story and history, but also at questioning male power and authority. The works of Assia Djebar are thus characterised by a revolutionary spirit which calls for the liberation of Algerian and Arab women from the supremacy of patriarchal culture and the collective memory from the sorrows of the burdens of the colonial past. This is perhaps best seen in her novel LAmour, la Fantasia, in which she criticises Algerian patriarchy and reconstructs the countrys colonial history. In Algeria and elsewhere in the Arab world, LAmour La Fantasia receives distinct receptions. Some critics praise the novel for its subject matter, which raises important issues, such as womens position in Algerian society and their role in the war of independence. Other commentators, however, see her fiction as being contaminated by Western ideas, which differ completely from, sometimes are against, the beliefs of Algerian traditional society. Part of the problem here is the use of French language and the connotations ascribed to Arabic.10

For extensive critical studies of Djebar works, especially LAmour la Fantasia, see for example: Mireille Calle-Gruber, Assia Djebar ou la rsistance de lcriture: Regards dun crivain dAlgrie, Paris: Maisonneuve & Larose, 2001 ; Aldlai Murdoch, Rewriting Writing: Identity, Exile and Renewal in Assia Djebars LAmour la Fantasia, Yale French Studies 83 (1993); Patricia Geesey, Collective Autobiography: Algerian Women and History in Assia Djebars LAmour la Fantasia, Dalhousie French Studies 35 (1996); Mary Jean Green, Dismantling the Colonising Text: Anne Hberts Kamouraska and


In this last section, I will attempt to provide an analytic reading of Assia Djebars LAmour, la Fantasia, by trying to explore and analyse the different problematic views which Djebars narrative comes with. I will also try to examine how language functions as both liberating and oppressing system. I will investigate Djebars ambivalent position toward the use of French and Arabic as both liberating and restricting mediums. Moreover, I will show how Arabic is associated with traditional patriarchy and French with both liberation and suffering. The second point which I will deal with in this chapter is the theme of re-writing history. By this, I continue with the discussion of the importance of cultural memory in providing counter views of the past; views which could not be found in any history record, but only in memories of ordinary people. In the last point, I will focus on the issue of gender. I will argue that one of the chief concerns of the novel is to act against and challenge patriarchal monolithic discourse through undermining the existing oppressive systems of the law-of-the-father, which forced Algerian women to fulfil the role of the subaltern, silenced and helpless victim. Throughout Arab history, the representation of Arab woman, among which is the Algerian, as a cultural and ideological composite is marked by an aggressive passivity. She was subject to marginality, oppression and silencing carefully and systematically conducted by male dominated culture. Legally, She was denied the right to a full citizenship; therefore, disappearing under the rule of the male members. Socially, She was not allowed the opportunity to function and express her self freely. This negative view about Algerian and Arab women as inferior creatures is what Assia Djebar tries to
Assia Djebars LAmour la Fantasia, French Review 66.6 (1993); Najiba Regaieg, LAmour, la Fantasia DAssia Djebar: de Lautobiographie la fiction, Itinraires et contacts de culture, Nouvelles Approches des textes littraires maghrbins ou migrants 27 (1999); Anne Donadey, Recasting Postcolonialism: Women Writing between Worlds Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2001, especially the section on ReMembering Colonial History.


challenge, dismantle and reconsider in her novel LAmour, la Fantasia. Djebars narrative describes the conditions of Algerian and Arab women, by revealing the causes that play part in their alienation within Arab society, ruled by a patriarchal system and religious ideologies. The novel is divided into two parts, a personal part which focuses on the story of an unnamed narrator and a historical part which deals with the colonial history of Algeria, starting with the occupation of the country in 1830 and ending with the countrys independence in 1962. The very choice behind Djebars juxtaposition of the two histories, the personal and the collective, is to give women its respect back by spotlighting different aspects of womens alienation and silencing. The use of different female perspectives offers her an opportunity to structure her text in such a way that these different angles of consciousness can stand apparently but also merge with and shed light on one anotherthe different parts of the text are in a self-corrective dialogue (AlNowaihi, Resisting 488 ). The female in LAmour, la Fantasia is given a voice that makes her able to express herself and also made symbolic of the nations colonial past. In Djebars work, language plays an important role in constituting power, especially Arabic. It is linked with social, legal and cultural prohibitions and restrictions of male power and its repressive and oppressive processes. This has lead to the irredeemable rupture between the female and her body; between the Self and the outside world: I remember how much this Quranic learning, as it is progressively acquired, is linked to the body [] the learning was absorbed by the fingers, the arms, through the physical effort. The act of cleaning the tablet seemed like ingesting a


portion of the Quranic text. The writingitself a copy of writing which is considered immutablecould only continue to unfold before us if it relied, clause by clause, on this osmosis As the hand traces the liana-script, the mouth opens to repeat the words, obedient to their rhythms, partly to memorize, partly to relieve the muscular tensionThe shrill voices of the drowsy children rise up in a monotonous, sing-song chorus. (Djebar, LAmour 183-4) What is more, women in their gatherings never refer to themselves with I, neither do they speak about their own experiences, but their conversations centre mainly on their husbands, referred to by the omnipresent he (154). In these conversations, women are trapped in the web of impossible revolt, for to speak about ones experience in Arabic language means to be open to criticism and suspicion: I recall one familiar expression used to condemn a woman irrevocably: [] the only really guilty woman, the only one you could despise with impunity, the one you treated with manifest contempt, was the woman who raises her voice. [] To refuse to veil ones voice and to start shouting, that was really indecent, real dissidence. For the silence of all the others suddenly lost its charm and revealed itself for what it was: a prison without reprieve. (Djebar, LAmour 203-4) Unlike Arabic, which figures oppression and silencing, French is made ambivalent. It is, on the one hand, the language of the coloniser and, on the other, a medium which offers the narrator the possibility to be a free woman. For Djebar, French is a symbol of the colonial past of Algeria and it is used as an instrument against the aggressor; confronting him with his own weapons. The narrator refers to French as


Langue martre (stepmother tongue (214)) ; a language which was behind the exclusion of Arabic and Berber from public schools and life in Algeria and the expulsion of the narrator from her long-lost mother tongue (214). She describes the antagonistic relationship between French and Arabo-Berber languages in terms of a warfare struggle where French is associated with the Spanish presidios, military force stationed along North African coasts, and the locals resistance as rabato, a war tactic based on swift attacks followed by a rapid retreat to a neutral space, to a sort of no-mans-land: Long before the French landed in 1830, the Spanish established their presidios (garrison posts) at strategic points along the Maghribian coastOran, Bougie, Tangiers, Ceuta; the indigenous rulers in the interior continued to resist and the occupying forces frequently found their food supplies cut off; thus they adopted the tactics of the rabato: an isolated spot would be chosen from which to launch an attack, and to they could retreat and use in the intervals between hostilities for farming or for replenishing supplies. This type of warfare, rapid offensive alternating with as swift retreats, allowed each side to continue the fight indefinitely. After more than a century of French occupation which ended not long ago in such butchery similar no-mans-land still exists between the French and the indigenous languages, between two national memories: the French tongue, with its body and voice, has established a proud presidio with me, while the mothertongue, all oral tradition, all rags and tatters, resists and attacks between two breathing spaces,. In time to the rhythms of the rabato, I am alternately the


besieged foreigner and the native wagering off to die, so there is seemingly endless strife between the spoken and written word [] For my part, even where I am composing the most commonplace of sentences, my writing is immediately caught in the snare of the old war between two people. So I swing like a pendulum from images of war (war of conquest or liberation, but always in the past) to the expression of a contradictory, ambiguous autopsy. (2145) French is used not only as an instrument through which the author writes back to the empire, but also as a liberating medium. Thanks to French, the thirteen year-old narrator was able to have access to a modern education which opens for her a new world; a world where she is granted a voice to express her sentiments, wishes, dreams, worries, stories etcshe writes her first love letters in French. The liberating aspects of French form a threat to Algerian patriarchal system and a glimpse of hope for women. In other words, in order to learn a foreign language, women have to go to school, thereby becoming no longer closed off on four walls. Djebars narrator stresses that acquiring French makes her feel just as the pentathlon runner of old needed the starter, so, as soon as learned the foreign script, body began to move as if by instinct. As if the French language suddenly had eyes, and lent them to see into liberty; as if the French language blinded the peeping-toms of clan and, at this price, could move freely, run headlong down every street, annex the outdoors for cloistered companions, for the matriarchs of family who endured a living death (181).


Accordingly, learning French allows the protagonist to have a voice, to discover her body as a woman and to rebel against patriarchal rules. In addition to its liberating qualities, French is also a language which is linked with suffering and violence, for it is the language of the aggressor and the coloniser Other. To the narrator, French is not her maternal language. Her access to French is imposed on her by her father, who was a teacher of French. This is made clear in the opening statements of the narrative: A little Arab girl going to school for the first time, one autumn morning, walking hand in hand with her father. A tall erect figure in a fez and a European suit, carrying a bag of school book. He is a teacher at the French primary school (3). This paternal language has distanced her from her maternal language, Arabic, and her Arabo-Islamic roots. The narrators relation with the language of the former coloniser remains ambiguous, since it is this language which was formerly used to entomb Algerians. When she uses it, the narrator feels that she needs to do something with it, namely to poison its diction, defamiliarise it structures and rework its syntax; in a word, to Arabise it, by making it sound foreigner to French readers and familiar to Arabs. In LAmour la Fantasia, Djebar, through her narrator, admits that writing and expressing the Self in French is not without risks: Writing the enemies language is more than just a matter of scribbling down a muttered monologue under your very nose; to use this alphabet involves placing your elbows some distance in front of you to form a bulwark however, in this twisted position, the writing is washed back to you. This language was imported in the murky, obscure past, spoils taken from the enemy with whom no fond word was ever exchangedFrench formerly the


language of the law courts, used alike by judges and convicted. Words of accusation, legal procedure, violence that is the oral source of the colonized peoples French. As I come to the inevitable ceasefire at the end of every war, my writing is washed up on the deserted seashores of the present day and looks for a place where a linguistic armistice can be arranged, a patio with fountains playing where people come and go. This language was formerly used to entomb my people; when I write it today I feel like the messenger of old, who bore a sealed missive which might sentence him to death or to the dungeon. By laying myself bare in this language. I start a fire which may consume me. For attempting an autobiography in the former enemys language(215) French and Arabic, then, fulfil distinct functions in the protagonists life and their tension is behind the narrators feeling of unease. She feels being torn between the two languages; between the possibilities they offer and the restrictions they contain. French is at once the tool which redeems her from the constraints of patriarchy and ignorance and at the same time causes her detachment from her maternal language and culture. It serves, as the narrator describes it, as a go-between language with double, contradictory sign (4). Djebar, as her narrator, is aware of the danger behind expressing the self in the colonisers language, for it can prove to be fatal for ones life; writing in French is a dangerous activity, affirms Djebar in one of her interviews. This strong link between the act of writing and risking ones life is expressed in many instances in the narrative, as in this passage, though implicitly:


De Bourmont, who had set up his cot on the site of Saint Sidi Fredjs catafalque, wishes to receive this unforeseen visitor, but not in this place where the Muslim sepulchre might seem to be profaned. He takes coffee with the old man a little distance away but gains no useful information. He decides to make him carry a document drawn up in Arabic, declaring his peaceful intentions. As soon as he walks away from the French camp he is killed by his own countrymen, precisely an account of these papers which cause him to be taken for a spy working for the invaders. So, the first written words, even while promising a fallacious peace, condemn their bearer to death. Any document written by The Others proves fatal, since it is a sign of compromise. (33) Similarly, Arabic is a language which is linked with a long history of religious and female submission (the closed space of the harem); a language as close and dark as the alleyways of the medina. Though all these negative connotations, she cannot reject it because it is the language of her ancestors and that of her Arabo-Islamic identity and culture: As a preliminary to seduction, love-letters do not demand any outpourings of the heart or soul, but the precision of a look. When writing, I have but one concern: that I should say enough, or rather that I should express myself clearly enough [] And now I too seek out the rich vocabulary of love of my mother tongue milk of which I had been previously deprived. In contrast to the segregation I inherited, words expressing love-in-the-present become for me like one token swallow heralding summer. (62)


Djebar keeps insisting that her sympathy is with the forgotten stories and histories of common Algerian women whose voices are not granted access to Algerian historical archives. Djebars sympathy with her female voices can be explained in terms of Djebars real life as a Muslim liberal intellectual who is writing from an uneasy position; that is of woman in a society still governed by male systems of thought and ruined by a turbulent political environment. This uncomfortable situation is basically similar to that of her protagonist and female voices presented struggling to make their stories heard. As Patricia Geesey puts it: A great deal has been written about the relationship of colonised people to their own history, but to date, little effort has been made to include (de)colonised women in texts that purport to renew the colonised subjects ties with the past [] [Assia Djebar] brings Algerian women to participate in an analysis of their relationship to the history of their country to the point out that they too have a stake in historical evolution of their nation. (Collective, 159-60) The historical account of the French conquest of Algiers in the 30th of June 1830 is what the reader comes across in the novels first chapter, situated immediately after the short description of the narrators first day at school. In this part, the omniscient narrator comments on the confrontations between the French army and the Algerian fighters, by highlighting the military strategies and the colonising mechanisms employed by the invaders. One of these mechanisms is the use of Orientalist reports as one of the colonisers weapon; that is to say, knowledge which these scholars accumulate about the land and the natives in order to pave the way to the colonial regime to claim power over Algerians:


His name is J. T. Merle; he too will publish an account of the capture of Algiers, but as a witness located in the rear of the action. He does not claim to be a war correspondent; he likes to be backstage, where he feels at home. Every day he reports on his position and makes a note of everything he sees (the wounded in the field hospital, his first palm tree, an agave in flower, for want of observations of the enemy doing battle) He observes, he notes, he makes discoveries. (28) This reminds us of Edward Saids thoughts about the intense relationship between knowledge and power in the colonial context. According to Said, the pair knowledge/power are intimately connected to the extent that it is almost impossible to occur separated from each other, in the sense that knowledge gives rise to power, the operations of which contribute in the production and the formation of knowledge. To examine the historical, political and cultural context, in which this knowledge is produced, Said adopts the Foucautdian notion of discourse so as to unveil Westerns imperial and colonial processes. Said suggests that the very academic discipline that studies the Orient and its cultures condenses statements and ways of dealing, thinking and seeing the Orient which in turn help in the emergence of the colonial power. Said argues: My contention is that without examining Orientalism as a discourse one cannot possibly understand the enormously systematic discipline by which European culture was able to manage and produce the Orient politically, sociologically, militarily, ideologically, scientifically, and imaginatively during the postEnlightenment period. (3) Merle and the other representatives of French intellectual institutions, who came to Algeria after the capture of Algiers, are representative figures of the French Orientalist


project which aimed at manufacturing and knowing the natives in order to intensify the process of claiming power over them. In order to problematise the French Orientalist enterprise, Djebar presents in the second part of her novel a number of women stories and testimonies kept out of history books. By giving a voice to these women, Djebar tries to reconstruct and reproduce collective images and ideas of the past, by relating them to actuality and giving them new meaning. Debra Kelley points out: The most obvious of the writing strategies employed in LAmour, la Fantasia is the recuperation of the nations lost history, especially the lost history of the women of Algeria, from between the lines of official history, and then the recomposition of this history as an element of both collective and personal history as it alternates in the text with the childhood experiences of the narrative voice (or at least the main narrative voice). (159) The personal and collective accounts presented in the novel are made symbolic of the power structures that govern the relationship between Algeria and France as well as that of the female and the male. On the representative level, the main issue of the novel is the re-invention of the dark moments in the colonial history of Algeria through recapitulating historical incidents and recounting oral testimonies of a number of Algerian women. On the symbolic level, however, these histories are made emblematic of the cruel acts deep rooted in power structures. It is no coincidence that Djebar uses the pronoun or to link between the first chapters two titles, which present distinct ideas. Symbolically enough, the history of the fall of the city of Algiers is made equivalent to that of the personal experience of the narrator, for both accounts come to convey that what happened in the


historical and personal experiences illustrate one thing, namely oppression, silencing and victimisation of subordinated groups in general. For Adlai Murdoch, the relationship between the colonised and the coloniser manifests itself in Djebars narrative in terms of a sensual relationship, in which the body of the former becomes a subject of desire and gaze of the latter. Murdoch argues: Through the figuring of Algeria as an object of desire for the pillaging French troops, Djebar is able to examine the process of colonisation from the novel approach of territorial conquest as a trope of human and cultural relations,. With the narrative strategy aimed at evoking the anguish and ambiguity of the colonised subject as desired object, and as desiring subject, the dislocation generated by the use of the colonisers language on the part of the speaking subject, and the historical, cultural, and textual interrelation between desire, the body, and writing, become the means by which Djebars text eventually inscribes the code of its own affirmation. Crucial here will be the evolving dialectical relationship between writing and desire, in which writing will become inextricably bound to the unveiling and implementation of desire, the obscene imposition of the colonial undertaking, the double quest for recognition, and the integration of a valorised, decolonised self into the historical and cultural continuum. (75) No difference is made, then, between collective and individual memory, for throughout the narrative historical accounts alternate with autobiographical or testimonial ones. Take for instance the first part of the narrative which is structured as follows: A little Arab girls first day at School alternates with the history of the invasion of Algiers; three cloistered girls alternates with the description of the battle of Staouli; The


French policemans daughter alternates with the third chapter which deals with the fall of Algiers; and, finally, My father writes to my mother alternates with the fourth and the last chapter which deals with the colonisation and the exploitation of the country. In this context, the Arab little girls symbolic journey from innocence to maturity and the detailed history of the conquest of Algiers reflect on each other, for they entrust to the collective cultural memory the function of uncovering and documenting the unconsidered history of a specific community; a desire which intends to establish ones and groups unique identity and historical experience so as to bear witness: The girls who were my friends and accomplices during my village holidays wrote in the same futile, cryptic language because they were confined, because they were prisoners; they mark their marasmus with their own identity in an attempt to rise above their pathetic plight. The accounts of this past invasion reveal a contrario an identical nature: invaders who imagine they are taking the Impregnable City, but who wander aimlessly in the undergrowth of their own disquiet. (45) In short, the celebration of the life experience of a single individual triggers our collective consciousness to make us reconsider our perceptions of history and its hegemonic processes. It is only by means of fixing our personal and collective memories in intelligible and written forms, a role which literature can excellently fulfil, we can restore truth and gain the battle against forgetting. The fusion between personal and collective history is a strategy to be traced in each part of the novel. In addition to the voice of the narrator, the narrative provides a number of female voices from the past who recount in turn events, memories and


incidents of the Algerian war of independence. The first of these voices is called Chrifa, meaning literally in Arabic an honourable person who is a descendent of the family of the prophet Mohamed. She retells the story of her participation and that of her brothers in the struggle against the French colonial army: My elder brother Abdelkader had taken to the hills to join the maquis, some time ago. France came right up to our doorsteps; we were living at the Sidi Mhamed Aberkane ZaouiaFrance arrived and burnt the whole place down. We went on living there, just the same, among the blackened stones (117). In this unequal fight, Chrifa has lost everything: her childhood, as she joined the national partisans in a very young age and her brother Ahmed, who was killed in front of her eyes by a French bullet, while fleeing: He was running in front of me when he fell: a bullet hit him behind the ear. He fell right in front of me (120). Affected deeply by the brutal death of her brother, Chrifas voice gave way. It is only by way of freeing the self from the burdens of memory that the voice of Chrifa sets itself free again to recount her own experience when she was nursing the maquisards, disguised by the goumiers or tortured by the French. In the section entitled Embraces, the narrator presents a completely different image of the brave patriotic Chrifa we recall from the previous two chapters. After the end of the war of independence, exactly twenty years later, Chrifa is described leading a simple and monotonous life as a woman of a taciturn widow with five children. Her glorious past and great acts for the sake of the nation have been surrounded by negligence. The narrators very act to revive her heroic story is meant by to reconsider the countrys history. The history of those common people who sacrificed their lives and everything for the


liberation of their country, not those whose pictures and names are painted on the streets walls or engraved in official history books: Chrifa! I wanted to re-create your flight: there in the isolated field, the tree appears before you when you are scared of the jackals. Next you are driven through the villages, surrounded by guards, taken to the prison camp where every year more prisoners arrive I have captured your voice; disguised it with my French without clothing it. (143). As a historian, Assia Djebar uses oral testimonies and archival information as background for her narrative to enrich our apprehension of the complex history of the country through holding to the process of producing a cultural memory. The promise of Djebars narrative is to provide a counter version of the past. The main idea behind the revision of the past and the production of cultural memory is the question of how the past and the present can interact with and linked with each other. In one of her interviews with Mildred Mortimer in the summer of 1988, Assia Djebar affirms that if we need to apprehend our actual situation and define our personal and collective identity, we have to understand what happened in the historical context: Lhistoire est utilise dans ce roman comme qute de lidentit [] Jaborde le passe du dix-neuvime sicle par une recherche sur lcriture en langue franaise. Stablit lors pour moi un rapport avec lhistoire du dix-neuvime sicle crite par des officiers francise, et un rcit oral des Algriennes traditionnelles daujourdhui : Deux passes salternent donc (Mortimer, Entretien 203). Assia Djebar recounts in the sections entitled Voice different incidents and narratives of Algerian women who had been isolated and silenced for a long time. In the


novel, the omniscient narrator is presented as eager to get these womens stories written and told, which makes her recover these buried narratives and recuperate them for the present (Fielder 27). The voices presented in the text are made emblematic of Algerian women in general who are described as doubly oppressed; first, by Algerian cultural repressive systems and second, by the colonial aggressive toolsexploiting, conquering and massacring them. Djebar understands that victims often internalise their own victimisation, and may even transform their pain and humiliation into a form of pleasure to make it more tolerable, she realises that there may be an element of masochism involved in the pleasure that an Algerian woman derives from exposing herself to the master (Al-Nowaihi, Resisting 490). This has trapped Algerian women into embodying male and master ideological constructions in their lives and thought to the extent that they become, like the male/master, to see their inferiority as an absolute and self-evident truth. Like in Gillo Pontecorvos film The Battle of Algiers, Djebar in her novel raises the issue of Westernising the body, that is looking like Europeans. In both narratives, one can notice how women, by unveiling themselves, have managed to mingle into French society. In the film, for instance, the patriotic women who changed their outlook to look like the French ladies have easily succeed in crossing the colonisers check points without being controlled and carry arms to the nationalist fighters. Unveiling the self, in this sense, turns to become a destructive tool which forms a threat to the colonisers military machine. Likewise, the protagonist of LAmour, la Fantasia asserts that looking like Europeans is a privilege, for it helps to escape the harem in which women have been buried for centuries: I had passed the age of puberty without being buried in the harem like my girl cousins; I had spent my dreaming adolescence on its fringes, neither totally


outside, nor in its heart; so I spoke and studied French, and my body, during this formative period, became Westernised in its way (127). To the French eyes, however, she will remain veiled, not so much disguised as anonymous (126), for to be ranked as a Westerner is more than acquiring Western styles of clothing, thoughts etc; it is rather a cultural, historical and social composite. She will remain the embodiment of the Algerian female and thus located in the in-between-spacedistanced from her own society and that of the coloniser. Djebar makes a connection between un(veiling) and the situation of Algerian woman. As a feminist activist, she sees the difference between male/female as an ideological construct used to naturalise the hierarchy between men and women in the social roles and the relations of domination. More than that, what is presented as natural has become simply a means through which patriarchal institutions impose their rules and teachings which must be respected, otherwise one gets penalised. Only by means of writing and telling, can a woman shed light on her body to lift the taboo, to lift the veilTo lift the veil and at the same time keep secret that which must remain secret, until the lightening flash of revelation (62). The written word becomes the magic formula that opens up the door of the narrators body and makes her aware of the world around her. It helps also to lift up from forgetfulness the voices, stories, memories and histories of ordinary Algerian women. Womens right to claim subjectivity is the urgent demand that Djebar tries to consider in her text. She challenges the false claim underlying male dominance that feminines and masculines behaviour and identity are not culturally determined, but anatomically. As Simone de Beauvoir put it, one is not born, but rather


becomes, a woman [] It is civilization as a whole that produces this creature [] which is described as feminine (qtd. in Abrams 89). In Algerian society, it is firmly established that mens attitudes towards women is supported by traditional norms and rules. This view does not only represent the opinion of French colonialists who propagandise the idea that the teachings of Islam legitimise the oppression of women, but also male dominated ideologies share with them the same belief that the subordinate situation of women is actually natural and is supported by the teachings of Islam. The narrative, on the contrary, comes as reaction against all these beliefs, by indicating that the problem of Algerian women, in particular, and Arab and Muslim ones, in general, wasnt (and isnt) with Islamic revealed laws. It is, rather, with the social and historical interpretations of these texts powered by males conceptual authorities: In the transmission of Islam, an acid erosion has been at work: Tradition would seem to decree that entry through its strait gate is by submission, not by love. Love, which the most simple of setting might inflame, appears dangerous (Djebar, LAmour 169). In the section Third Movement, the narrator tells about her own memories in relation to religious ceremonies. We come to know that the difference between and the separation of sexes are deep rooted in the dominating ideology which aims at making what is basically social and political sound as a natural fact, in order to naturalise the hierarchy between men and women in social roles and relations of domination. More than that, what is presented as natural has become simply a means through which patriarchal institutions impose its rules and teachings which must be respected otherwise one gets penalised:


Every gathering, for a funeral, for a wedding, is subject to rigid rules: the separation of sexes must be rigorously respected, care must be taken that no male relative sees you, no cousin among the men crowding outside the house must run the risk of recognizing you when you go out or in, veiled amid the host of other veiled women, lost in the mob of guests concealed behind their masks. (169) For Djebar, recovering the subalterns voice is an urgent necessity for any effort to defy silence and give to those who have been never taken into consideration the opportunity to express themselves freely. The narratives use of a female focaliser and the presentation of the stories and histories of a number of common Algerian women support the feminist claim of the feminine as disruptive of discourse. In this work, Djebar seems to be concerned with pointing out the blanks, the interruptions and the unmarked spaces that characterise the feminist intellectual history which have contributed to the absence of an authorised feminine theoretical genealogy. In her fiction, Djebar alludes to and relies on feminist theoretical achievements in order to uncover womens critical position and at the same time to problematise the power of Algerian males discourse. As John Erickson remarks, The womens position is entangled in oppositions that transcend their state, vis-vis the Arabo-Berber male, in Algerian society. The juxtaposition of the written accounts of the European colonizers with the oral accounts of the Algerian women projects these oppositions onto a screen: that of the relations of power obtaining, past and present, between France and the Maghreb. The former has historically has served as the Sartrean conscience nante of the latter and has posited the


latter as object and constituted itself as subject through the latters negation. Such a process evinced itself in the phenomenon of colonial rule. (307) Giving women access to the world of words and subjectivity, Djebar tries to fill the intellectual blank caused by patriarchy and its political, cultural and conceptual systems and institutions. For Patricia Geesy, Djebars very act of re-writing Algerian history reveals the shortage in analysing female cases in colonial discourse, especially in the theories of Franz Fanon and Albert Memmi. She argues: A great deal has been written about the relationship of colonised peoples to their own history, but to date, little effort has been made to include (de)colonised women in texts that purport to renew the colonised subjects ties with the past. Albert Memmis and Franz Fanons theories about the colonised intellectual and history point out that the first step in decolonising the mind is the construction of a positive historical and cultural heritage in response to the denigration perpetrated against indigenous institutions and attitudes by the coloniser. In their essays, Memmi and Fanon do not enter into a discussion of whether or not the intellectual in question is a male or female subject. They mention the role women have played in revolutionary struggles, but they do not envision the possibility that colonised women have specific concerns in regard to their own relationship to history. At the time when they wrote their seminal studies on colonised psychology, the issue of postcolonial feminine subjectivity had not yet been distinguished from the overall concerns of the decolonised subject [] [Assia Djebar] brings Algerian women to participate in an analysis of their relationship


to the history of their country to point out that they too have a stake in the historical revolution of their nation. (159-60) Like Geesy, Debra Kelly believes that Djebars LAmour is vivid testimony of so many lost and forgotten women (287). She goes even further to state that the novel is a revival of lost voices in history books. It engages with wider questions concerning gender, colonisation and the impact and aftermath of war more generally (287). A similar attitude is expressed by Danielle Marx-Scouras, who thinks that Djebars inscription of female experiences into intelligible formsinto wordsoffers women the opportunity to operate within and from places where knowledge and information of war of independence is produced and transmitted, an area used exclusively by men to men: If war is indeed the affair of men, as Hector claimed in the Iliad, thereby setting up a literary paradigm that has maintained a hold on us for centuries, then women are exiled from discourse of war. If that is so, why then have a growing number of Francophone women writers from the Maghreb and the Mashreq [the East] taken on this essentially masculine problematic? What we have is nothing less than a literary event that raises fundamental rhetorical economic, political, and sexual questions. (174-5) What is interesting in Djebars narrative is that it provides a view from a female vantage, the option which allows her to challenge power structures that support the supremacy of French colonial discourse and destabilise the boundaries that Algerian and Arab men have surrounded women with since the dawn of history. Women should not be linked only with LAmourlovebut with Fantasiachivalric actsas well.


Djebars use of female voices in LAmour La Fantasia is a way of speaking about the oppression and the silencing of subordinated groups in general, among which are Algerian and Arab women. The inability of women to speak about their experiences shows how the dominant discourse has deprived those defined as inferior or Others from the right of subjectivity. In expressing themselves, these women fill part of the silence caused by centuries of males alienation of the female from institutions where knowledge are fabricated. Djebars narrative, therefore, grants a voice to the silenced female not only in Algeria, but in Arab society at large. I have argued how language is associated with oppression, suffering and liberation. It has been said that Arabic symbolises, according to Djebars text, the oppressing systems of Algerian society as it figures the law of the father: its restrictions and prohibitions. On the contrary, French is linked with liberation because it gives the narrator the opportunity to discover and express her self freely. French is also seen as the language of the enemy; a language that must pay the price for French colonial past. Consequently, she deconstructs it by Arabising it. As for Re-Writing history, there I have argued that womens stories and histories become a crucial instrument of Algerian collective memory that bears witness to the past, by providing its counter-memory of what happened in the historical experience. Djebars novel constantly seeks to provide its own views of the historical experience, by refusing to deal with the past with all its discontents as digestible historical events that end up in historical records. Clearly, LAmour La Fantasia is a marvellous book which criticises power structures in all forms, from patriarchy to Western colonial enterprise and its institutions.


VI. Conclusion
The relationship between Europe and its Others is one of the strongest concepts that keeps driving the intellectual projects of postcolonial writers who resist and defy colonial hegemonic thoughts, by asserting and inventing a self image of their local independent identity; an identity which differs from, and contradicts, European imposed models. To


examine the historical, political and cultural context, in which the colonial discourse is produced, postcolonial writers create a theory of their own which aims at unveiling Western imperial and colonial processes and helps in settling local identity and culture. For postcolonial writers, Eurocentric mechanisms of knowledge condense statements and ways of dealing, thinking and seeing non-Europeans as colonial others who are inferior and, at the same time, beneficial to the European Self. I have indicated how the three novels challenge European forms of knowledge and question the discursive field in which these thoughts operate. In the section about the Arabic novel, I have given a short survey about the emergence of the fiction genre in Arab lands, by stating the major developments it has undergone. I have also mentioned that the Arab novel owes a great deal to European models which serve as guide lines and sources of inspiration for early Arab writers. In this context, the first Arab novels come as a copy of European classical models. I have tried to illustrate that the genre of the novel appeared first in the East, mainly in Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, and later in the rest of the Arab world. Essential to these first novels was the illumination of immediate issues linked with social and political conditions of Arab societies. I have illustrated that social and political concerns form the main focus of these novels, without forgetting other matters which were also of great importance like gender, religion, language and tradition. From the 60s onwards, the novel attains its mature stage and we start to come across marvellous texts which can be compared to those published in the old continent. Thanks to many factors, like the direct contact with the European culture and languages, Arab writers manage to break free from archaic themes of resistance, colonialism,


poverty etc and tackle other themes that focus on profound issues that have to the do with the individual. Either produced in the East or the Arab West, Arab postcolonial novels seem to have the same worries and inquiries because Arab lands share together many elements, like history, religion, tradition etc As a good example of mature Arab novels is Tayyib Sallehs master work Season of Migration to the North. I have argued that East/Wests cultural conflict is the dominant theme of the novel. It has also been mentioned that this antagonism manifests itself in the novels two main figures, namely the narrator and Mustafa Said. I have shown that the narrator represents the moderate side as he harbours no ill will against Europeans and their culture. Instead, he assigns himself the function of negotiating between his own culture and the European, and corrects the stereotypical and simple views about the West. On the opposite side of the narrator, we find the radical Mustafa Said, who believes that the relationship between the self and the European other is antagonistic. He devotes his whole life and his physical and intellectual capacities to bring harm to the former colonisers. One of his revenge mechanisms is the use of womens bodies. All his lovers have died either by committing suicide or by being killed by Said himself, as in the case of his wife. Said is a real tragic figure. During his life, Said was busy mainly with one thing: how to conduct his revenge, by bringing back to the British the virus of violence. The novel comes at the end to the conclusion that in order to go on, one must let bygones be bygones. This is made evident in the symbolic journey to the narrators self, first when he enters the secret room of Mustafa Said, and later when he dispels his rage by swimming in the Nile. After these most memorable moments, the narrator declares himself healed


from Saids influences and any other ideological or national imaginings. He chooses at the end to live the present, think about the future and forget about the past. The same divisive tendencies are to be traced in Mohammed Berradas first novel The Game of Forgetting, but this time on a national scale. Unlike Tayyib Salleh, Berrada in his intellectual game of remembering and forgetting deals with issues that concern Moroccan reality, running through frightening deformations at all levels. The world of Berradas novel is centred on the idea of how to write down memory and bear witness to what is happening presently and what happened in the past. I have stated that Al-Hadis crisis is both private and collective. As for the private, the death of the mother makes AlHadi reconsider his relationship with himself and the world around him. I have pointed out that the figure of the mother has many symbolic uses, all of which contain positive meanings. She is an emblem of tradition, of authenticity and of love. Her death is not only a big loss to her children, family and relatives, but to the whole nation since with her death Morocco buries one stage and embraces another. For Berrada, the new Morocco is governed by the principle of the surviving of the fittest. Others who think, react, revolt have no place in the postcolonial Moroccan community. Whereas the mother as well as her daughter Najjia and her husband have conducted a normal life because they have never complained, Tayyi, F.B and Al-Hadi could not. After more than half a century spent in serving the nation, Tayyi seeks refuge in his bookish information about Islam. He declares himself as a useless card in the political game because he could not eradicate the corruption residing deep in the heart of the country. Like Tayyi, F.B. could not cope on with her revolutionary spirit. She ends up in isolation because social laws are stronger, at least for the moment, than her invented


rules. In this contradictory world Al-Hadi tries to find a place for himself, not by facing the reality, but by remembering the lost past and bearing witness to the unpleasant present. Like Tayyib Salleh and Mohammed Berrada, Assia Djebar in her novel LAmour, la Fantasia is occupied with reflecting what happened in the past in conduction with the present, as well as criticising some aspects of Algerian society that are shown as unpractical or old fashioned. If Sallehs main theme was how to trade between the self and the European other or to criticise Moroccos postcolonial reality as in the case with Mohammed Berradas, the chief concern of Assia Djebar is to give a space to the subaltern whose voice has been silenced during history. I have argued that the use of women focalisers helps uncovering many female stories and histories that are usually kept out of our reach or left out of history volumes. I have also tried to illustrate how women, like any marginalised group, are affected and manipulated by the dominant patriarchal culture. I have argued that Arabic is connected in the novel with male values and restrictions, whereas French is more connected with liberation. As a liberating medium, French offers big advantages to the narrator, for it enables her to discover the external world and her internal: her own body. Yet, the narrator, from time to time, shows that French is after all the language of the intruder; therefore, the views of French language must pay the price of what happened in the colonial history. The question of gender forms the nucleus of the whole narrative. I have tried to illustrate that being a woman in a male dominated society is a big handicap for women. Central to Djebars narrative is the interrogation of the patterns of domination that guarantee the supremacy of male values and the subordination of the female.


To conclude, the three novels discussed in this paper present different views and perspectives in dealing with the burdens of colonial history and the question of the Self in relation to past and present. The three writers emphasise that the problem of Arab postcolonial societies lies deep in its power structures. To get out of this vicious circle, it becomes necessary to reconsider our relationship with European influences. That is to say, it is not Western civilisation which is corrupt and inadequate, but rather our way of dealing with it which needs to be revised. Arabs often take Western models and apply them directly to their own contexts and cases, without considering their local specificities. It is true that the history of relations between Arabs and Europeans has been marked by dark and agitating periods, but this will not prevent us building a better world in which love, peace and tolerance prevail.

Works Cited

Primary Sources: Berrada, Mohamed. The Game of Forgetting. Translated from Arabic by Issa j. Boullata. London: Quartet Books, 1997. Djebar, Assia. Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade. Translated by Dorothy S. Blair. Portsmouth: Heinmann, 1993.


Salleh, Tayyib. Season of Migration to the North. Translated by Denys Johnson-Davis. Oxford: Heinemann, 1991.

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