from the “Diwan Ifrikiya” anthology: Assia Djebar

Assia Djebar — born in Cherchell in 1936 — is of course best known as the major Algerian novelist of her generation (Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade; A Sister to Scheherazade and Women of Algiers in their Apartments, among others). She was also the first Maghrebi woman to become a member of the Académie Française. But as a young writer she also wrote poetry. Here is one of those works, written in Rabat in 1960 & published in Algiers after Algeria gained independence from France in 1962.




Snows in the Djurdjura
Lark traps in Tikjda
Plum tomatoes in the Ouadhias
I am being whipped in Azazga
A young goat gambols in the Hodna
Horses flee from Mechria
A camel dreams in Ghardaia

And my sobs in Djemila
The cricket sings in Mansourah
A falcon flies over Mascara
Fire brands in Bou-Hanifia

No pardon for the Kelaa
Sycamores in Tipaza
A hyena comes out in Mazouna
The hangman sleeps in Miliana

Soon my death in Zemoura
A ewe in Nedroma
And a friend near Oudja
Night cries in Maghnia

My agony in Saida
The rope around the neck in Frenda
On the knees in Oued-Fodda
On the gravel of Djelfa

Prey of the wolves in M’sila
Beauty of jasmine in Kolea
Garden roses of  Blida
On the road to Mouzaia

I’m dying of hunger in Medea
A dry river in Chellala
A dark curse in Medjana
A sip of water in Bou-Saada

And my tomb in the Sahara
Then the alarm sounds in Tebessa
Eyes without tears in Mila
What a racket in Ain-Sefra

They take up arms in Guelma
A shiny day in Khenchla
An assassination in Biskra
Soldiers in the Nementcha

Last battle in Batna
Snows on the Djurdjura
Lark traps in Tikjda
Plum tomatoes in the Ouadhias

A festive mood in the heart of  d’El Djazira


[translated by P.J.]


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7 Responses

  1. Tonia says:

    Prof, will you be translating the whole anthology or were you sharing the poem? I love her writing. Thanks for sharing!

    • Pierre Joris says:

      No, no — I translate a good part of the French materials, plus some of the work from Srabic in collaboration, but much/most work from Arabic, Latin, Berber & Greek is done by others

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