The New York Times
A compelling war novel, as seen by women, sheds light on the current Iraq conflict.
Elsa DixlerChildren of the New World, the third novel by the Algerian writer Assia Djebar, was published in France in 1962, but Marjolijn de Jager's lovely translation is its first appearance in English…Djebar's point of view is feminist and anticolonial, but her novel is no propaganda piece. Even as she fervently supports Algerian independence, she makes it clear that in the new world opening up before them the people of Blida won't necessarily live happily ever after.
The New York Times
Publishers WeeklyDeath 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.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus ReviewsA chaotic and perilous day in the life of a North African village is depicted in this taut 1962 novel, written in French by the Algerian-born author (So Vast a Prison, 1999, etc.) and filmmaker. The year is 1956, and the Algerian Revolution against French imperialism is in full swing. In nine compact chapters, each named for and featuring a single character, Djebar shows the mountainside town of Blida in (often violent) transition from a late-feudal patriarchal culture into an inchoate egalitarian society in which women seek to forsake traditional roles long imposed on them and join their brothers, husbands and lovers in casting off the shackles of colonialism. Djebar is an impassioned advocate of Algerian and female liberation, and this much-admired book (previously untranslated into English) does not entirely avoid partisan discursiveness. But she has found a perfect metaphor for the war's horrors: an aged grandmother who refused to leave her home, killed by shrapnel in her courtyard. And her message is both delivered and lived by several vividly imagined characters. Foremost among them: stunningly beautiful Cherifa, who dares to shed the dull husband forced on her and choose a man she loves; guilt-ridden policeman Hakim, who shares his earnings with his grasping family, and his long-suffering wife Amna, exhausted by multiple childbearings; philosophy student Lila, resentful of her husband Ali's "militant nationalism," which separates him from her; treacherous Touma, who luxuriates in the "power" conferred by her status as a colonial informer-until she excites the wrath of her brother Tawfik, a fiery true believer; and many others. The result is a painstakingly braided tapestry thatrichly deserves its high reputation-as is explained in informative (and, unfortunately, tediously redundant) detail in scholar Clarissa Zimra's otherwise worthy Afterword. Djebar is reputed to be a leading Nobel Prize candidate. Reading this replete, stirring novel, one can understand why.
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