On the passing of Assia Djebar (1936-2015): not a moment of silence, but a moment to speak

Normally, we hold a moment of silence to honor the dead. In honor of Assia Djebar, shall we institute a moment to speak?

Djebar was a renowned novelist, filmmaker, and advocate for Algerian women’s rights. One of the central tropes in her work is women’s expression, as a struggle for freedom and an epistemological problem, whether in the 19th century harem, from under the veil, or in speech, music, or writing.

Here, for example, is an excerpt from Djebar’s groundbreaking feminist novella Femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement (Women of Algiers in their Apartment)(1978):

Une femme qui parle devant une autre qui regarde, celle qui parle raconte-t-elle l’autre aux yeux dévorants, à la mémoire noire ou décrit-elle sa propre nuit, avec des mots torches et des bougies dont la cire fond trop vite? Celle qui regarde, est-ce à force d’écouter, d’écouter et de se rappeler qu’elle finit par se voir elle-même, avec son propre regard, sans voile enfin… (122)

(A woman speaking in front of another one who’s watching; does the one who’s speaking tell the story of the other one with the devouring eyes, with the black memories, or is she describing her own dark night with words like torches and with candles whose wax melts too fast? She who watches, is it by means of listening, of listening and remembering that she ends up seeing herself, with her own eyes, unveiled at last… [47])

assia_djebarMore on Djebar:

From Arabic Literature (in English), with links to some of Djebar’s works translated into English, here. Also see Authors Remember Assia Djebar.

“…we are lauding her here because she has given weeping its words and longing its lyrics.”—William Gass, “Encomium for Assia Djebar, 1996 Neustadt Laureate” (WLT Vol. 40, Autumn 1996)

Nécrologie: Le Monde

No obituaries in major American publications yet, but they are surely forthcoming.