By Debra Kelly
In Autobiography and Independence, Debra Kelly examines 4 comprehensive Francophone North African writers—Mouland Feroan, Assia Djebar, Albert Memmi, and Abdelk?bir Khatibi—to light up the complicated dating 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 impressive individuality, the 4 reveal the ways that such heritages are refracted via a writer's own historical past. This e-book could be of curiosity to scholars of Francophone literature, colonialism, and African historical past and tradition. (10/10/2006)
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Extra resources for Autobiography and Independence: Self and Identity in North African Writing in French (Liverpool University Press - Contemporary French & Francophone Cultures)
This attention to the place of religion in the development of autobiography in the West, previously discussed, is important when we come to consider autobiographical texts written by authors from non-Western cultures, and it also brings us to another essential debate concerning conceptions of the individual and his or her place in society. Many critics analysing North African literature in French – and the same has been true, for example, concerning Black American autobiographical writing – will maintain that the collective voice is more important than the individual, that every ‘I’ masks a ‘we’, that the writer speaks on behalf of a community that has often been deprived of a voice, due to colonialism, or due to slavery in the case of America.
Above all, it is a view that privileges a Western conception of the individual and his (and I stress ‘his’) place in the world. I previously quoted Jean Déjeux and noted the assumptions that he makes. He does not specify how long the ‘long time’ actually is that autobiography has been an integral part of Western literature and the Western worldview. In fact, the history of autobiography as we think of it at the beginning of the twenty-first century dates back only to the second half of the nineteenth century.
If Augustine’s Confessions offer us a brilliantly successful landmark right at the beginning, one nevertheless recognises immediately that this is a late phenomenon in Western culture, coming at that moment when the Christian contribution was grafted onto classical traditions. Moreover, it would seem that autobiography is not to be found outside our cultural area; one would say that it expresses a concern peculiar to Western man, a concern that has been of good use in his systematic conquest of the universe and that he has communicated to men of other cultures; but those men will thereby have been annexed by a sort of intellectual colonising to a mentality that was not their own […] It is obvious that autobiography is not possible in a cultural landscape where consciousness of self does not, properly speaking, exist […] Autobiography becomes possible only under certain metaphysical preconditions.