By Debra Kelly

In Autobiography and Independence, Debra Kelly examines 4 entire Francophone North African writers—Mouland Feroan, Assia Djebar, Albert Memmi, and Abdelk?bir Khatibi—to remove darkness from the advanced courting of a writer's paintings to cultural and nationwide histories. The legacies of colonialism and the problems of nationalism run all through all 4 writers' works, but of their remarkable individuality, the 4 display the ways that such heritages are refracted via a writer's own historical past. This publication can be of curiosity to scholars of Francophone literature, colonialism, and African heritage and tradition. (10/10/2006)

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59 In attempts to define the genre there are, however, two constants. The first is the question of truth, to which critics return again and again in different ways, whether in terms of authorial intention (‘this happened to me’), or in terms of reader perception and expectation, or both, and which clearly defines an autobiographical mode in opposition to the expectations of fiction. The second defining feature is the genre’s hermeneutic mode. Autobiography is the place of self-interpretation, usually, and especially in contemporary texts, with an initial emphasis on childhood and the conditions of the author’s origins, leading to an analysis of events and people who have influenced the developing personality in an attempt to explain actions and motives, or to find a pattern to that life.

Assumptions about life itself, about feelings – one’s own and others. 61 The need to understand and move beyond these assumptions is particularly important for developing reading strategies to deal with North African texts in the colonial and postcolonial contexts, and in the following section I shall attempt to define the need for what may be called ‘motivated’ reading strategies. The assumption most frequently made, or at least the commonplace most often repeated concerning autobiography in North Africa, as we have seen, is that the genre of autobiography is unknown in, or indeed completely alien to, Arabic and Islamic culture, and that the autobiographies produced from the 1950s onwards therefore ‘borrow’ in some way a Western genre.

48 Rippin notes particularly, for example, what might be termed the politicisation of Islam in diaspora populations as the affirmation of Islamic practices becomes part of an expression of identity: Another way of expressing this is as the ‘Islamisation of the self’, and the use of Islamic symbols to provide identity on a personal level. 51 The ‘witness to faith’ (shahada), evoked earlier by Jean Déjeux, consists of the repetition of the two phrases ‘There is no Auto & Ind pages rev again 28 1/2/05 4:27 PM Page 28 Autobiography and Independence god but God’ and ‘Muhammad is the messenger of God’.

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