Monday, September 29, 2014

Forgotten Jewish writers of Algeria



 From top: Jean Daniel, Albert Bensoussan, Jeanne Benguigui; Helene Cixous


If the Judeo-Algerian music scene is widely knownJudeo-Algerian literature remains totally unknown or taboo, even if the authors supported the Algerian revolution. Amin Zaoui corrects the record on the Algerian-Jewish website Zlabia. Note that some writers, like Helene Cixous
Jacques Derrida and Jean Daniel, are not forgotten at all, but found fame in their adoptive land, France :

"The world of artistic culture knows well the geniuses of music and song : Sheikh Raymond, Reinette L' Oranaise, Lili Labassi, Blond-Blond, Salim Halali, José de Suza, Lili Boniche, Rene Perez, Maurice El-Medioni, and so on. A Jewish-Algerian school has imprinted itself on the history of Algerian music to this day.

On the other hand, the literati and people of Algeria know nothing or little about Jewish-Algerian writers, for example:

Elissa Rhaïs real name Rosine Boumendil,   considered the pioneer of Jewish-Algerian literature. She was born in 1876 in Blida, and died in 1940, the first Algerian writer to be published and recognized in France. Among her works:
Le Café chantant, La Fille des pachas, La Fille du douar, Le Mariage de Hanifa, Enfants de Palestine.

Sadia Levy, born in Oran in 1875. Died in 1951.  One of the poet Guillaume Apollinaire's close friends. Jean Senac testified to and recognized his debt to the scholarship of Sadia Levy.  He wrote songs with Robert Randau, head of the Algerian literary movement, and a collection of short stories. 

Jules Tordjman was born in 1907 and died in Bechar in 1990. His poetic genius was praised by Leopold Sedar Senghor and Emmanuel Robles.

Maximilienne Heller, whose real name was Fenech. She was born in Constantine in 1889 and died in 1960, and was awarded the Algerian Grand Literary Prize in 1922. Her writings are considered anti-colonialist.

Jeanne Benguigui was born in Sidi Bel-Abbes in 1922 and died in 2003. Her book A Tale of Sidi Bel-Abbes shows her commitment to her hometown and its rich folk culture.

Albert Bensoussan was born in 1935 in Algiers, where he spent his youth. He was a high school teacher at the Lycee Bugeaud in Algiers (now the Lycee Emir Abdelkader ) until 1961. Algeria is very present in his work, especially the  Judeo-Arabic world. His story collection L'Echelle Algerienne evokes details the life of this community.

Myriam Ben, nee Marylise Ben Haim born in Algiers in 1928 and died in 2001. Novelist, poet, painter and anti-colonial voice. Among her memorable books:
Le Soleil assassiné (poetry), Au Carrefour des sacrifices (poetry), Quand les cartes sont truquées (memoirs), Sabrina, ils t’ont volé ta vie (novel)

Hélène Cixous was born in 1937 in Oran. She is a great literary figure today, known also for her anti-colonialism and feminism. She wrote about fifty books, all genres, including:
Le Prénom de Dieu, Le Jour où je n’étais pas là, Ève s’évade ; La Ruine et la vie…

Other writers and Jewish-Algerian philosophers have become legends and still have Algeria in their heart : Jacques Derrida, born in Algiers in 1930, died in 2004 Jean Daniel Bensaid, known as Jean Daniel, born in Blida in 1920, writer, journalist and founder of the Nouvel Observateur, an activist and supporter of the Algerian revolution

If the Algerian French-speaking writers of Arab origin (Mohammed Dib, Malek Haddad, Mostefa Lacheraf) or Berber origin (Mouloud Feraoun Mouloud Mammeri Jean Amrouche) have a place in academic thinking, Jewish-Algerian writers , for their part, are totally forgotten.

In this time of hatred and dirty holy wars, and to resurrect the image of a pluralistic Algeria, we must never forget the shaheed Fernand Iveton, this Algerian Jew, who died for the independence of free Algeria. He was sentenced to death by colonial France and guillotined in 1957, and wrote: "In the life of a man, mine has little meaning. What matters is Algeria and its future, and Algeria will be free tomorrow. "


Read original post  (French)


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