Irma Erlingsdóttir

Forms of Resistance and the Question of the In-between in Assia Djebar‘s work

Taking the writings of Assia Djebar as a point of departure, the paper focuses on the struggle—so central among Francophone writers—between the “inner” and “outer” aspects of languages within a transnational cultural and political context. Djebar‘s literary task— as a woman and a writer—is to find a way to avoid being incorporated into a purely French literary tradition or into a reified, local, and primordial Algerian culture. It is a reflection of the specific conditions of Francophone writers, in general: to have two or more tongues— the official (patriarchal) one and their (m)other tongue(s). Their backgrounds appear as inscriptions of irreducible differences as regards language, politics, history, culture, race, sex/gender and geography.

“Between-two-languages/tongues” (l ́entre-deux-langues) is a main concept in Djebar‘s writings. The concept expresses the interstice that “connects” French and Arabic. It will be argued that this connection is not only marked by conflict and distrust but also, in some cases, by mutual respect. For Djebar, it is a question of infusing the French language with Arabic influences. Thus, she “bi-tongues”—or translates into French—foreign history, Algerian experiences and voices. As will be stressed, one motive is to highlight the oppression and silencing of Algerian women from historical and contemporary perspectives, while at the same time underlining their various forms of resistance.