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Conflict and Remembrance in Franco-Algerian Literature, 1981-1999
Lewis, Jonathan George
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
The Algerian War of Independence (1954-62), which brought an end to over a century of French colonial dominance in Algeria, is widely viewed as one of the most violent wars of decolonisation, the repercussions of which continue to prove pertinent to contemporary French society. After a thirty-seven year period of widely acknowledged state amnesia in France, the French government finally recognised the Franco-Algerian conflict as a war in 1999. This phase of forgetting persisted in spite of the visible reminder constituted by the sizeable population of Algerian origin living in France: a population that bears the legacy and memory of the war and transmits it to subsequent generations. The hesitation of the state to confront its colonial past in this way has exacerbated the sense of exclusion of France’s Algerian population, and has hindered its capacity to integrate into French society. Through a study of literature, this thesis addresses these issues of remembrance and exclusion. Taking as its primary corpus novels by four authors who embody the divisive past shared by France and Algeria – Azouz Begag, Mehdi Charef, Mounsi, and Leïla Sebbar – this study investigates the ways in which Franco-Algerian literature has represented the marginalisation of France’s ethnic Algerian population, and posited routes of escape from this marginalisation. Furthermore, it analyses the extent to which the primary texts challenge the history of silence maintained for so long by the French government, and bring to light instead a complex, plural historical narrative as opposed to the monolithic version of history put forward by the state. By examining texts published between 1981 and 1999, the thesis traces the increased presence of the children of Algerian migrants in French society during the 1980s, which leads into a greater attention to history and a wave of remembrance in the 1990s, prefiguring the eventual official acknowledgment of the Algerian War by the French government in 1999.
PhD in French