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Children of the New World : A Novel of the Algerian War
Assia Djebar, the most distinguished woman writer to emerge from the Arab world-and a top candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature-wrote Children of the New World following her own involvement in the Algerian resistance to colonial French rule. This long-overdue first English translation coincides with the 50th anniversary of the start of the Algerian war and with the growing insurgency in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.
Like the classic film The Battle of Algiers-enjoying renewed interest in the face of world events-Djebar's novel sheds light on current world conflicts as it reveals a determined Arab insurgency against foreign occupation, from the inside out.
However, Djebar focuses on the experiences of women drawn into the politics of resistance. Her novel recounts the interlocking lives of women in a rural Algerian town who find themselves joined in solidarity and empower each other to engage in the fight for independence. Narrating the resistance movement from a variety of perspectives-from those of traditional wives to liberated students to political organizers-Djebar powerfully depicts the circumstances that drive oppressed communities to violence and at the same time movingly reveals the tragic costs of war.
Death begins and ends Djebar's moving, mesmerizing account of the Algerian war of independence. Using the interaction of several characters over the course of a single day in a small mountain town, Djebar shows how the fight against French colonialism pitted woman against man and "brother against brother." "Overt violence is the only policy that pays off in this country," one character muses; another moves in and out of consciousness after 14 days of police torture. Emotional violence proves just as shocking as physical brutality, as when 29-year-old Cherifa must overcome Islamic tradition in order to protect her husband, Youssef, from their neighbor, the policeman Hakim. But as Hakim conducts his investigation into Youssef's participation in a "secret organization," he starts to question the way his job has alienated him from the Arab community and from his wife. Djebar (So Vast the Prison) broadens the stories of "the revolution, the liberation struggle" to honor the "many drowning women whose destiny had been taken away forever" and to critique blind adherence to any ideology. The anticolonial, feminist novel, published in France in 1961 but only recently translated into English, loudly reverberates in today's politically charged social climate. (Dec.)
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The Feminist Press
September 30, 2005
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