26 April 2009

Maghrebi writers

The book Bilingual Games: Some Literary Investigations (2003), edited by Doris Sommer, is described in Amazon.com this way:

"These essays bring home the most challenging observations of postmodernism — multiple identities, the fragility of meaning, the risks of communication. Sommer asserts that many people normally live — that is, think, feel, create, reason, persuade, laugh — in more than one language. She claims that traditional scholarship (aesthetics; language and philosophy; psychoanalysis, and politics) cannot see or hear more than one language at a time. The goal of these essays is to create a new field: bilingual arts & aesthetics which examine the aesthetic product produced by bilingual diasporic communities. The focus of this volume is the Americas, but examples and theoretical proposals come from Europe as well. In both areas, the issue offers another level of complexity to the migrant and cosmopolitan character of local societies in a global economy."

In his contribution to the book, Réda Bensmaïa, in “Introduction to Tetraglossia: The Situation of Maghrebi Writers,” writes (pages 88-89):

“What language should one write in? In what language should one make films? In what language should people be allowed to speak and write? In what places? At what time? Or still, in French? Arabic? In Berber? In Kabyle? In literary Arabic? Problems as concrete and vital as these explain the acuity of tensions, contradictions and difficulties facing every artist in Algeria. For the writers to write, for filmmakers to make films, is a question of life and death, as each one of their gestures, each of their choices is a foundation. In every case it is a matter of delineating a ‘terrain’ and to find, at any cost, one way out of the labyrinth of tongues and languages.”

In some countries, multilingual literature is not just a harmless and pleasurable intellectual exercise that writers engage in. It could be as crucial to life as one's choice of religion, ideology, spouse, or physician.

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