International Prize for Arabic Fiction Profiles: Waciny Laredj

Waciny Laredj was born in Tlemcen, Algeria in 1954. He is a well-known author both in his native Algeria and in France, where he has taught literature since 1994. Several of his novels have been translated into French, although none—I believe—has made its way into English.

Laredj has won a number of prizes for his work, including the prestigious Sheikh Zayed Prize for Literature, which he won in 2007.

He told the publication Jeune Afrique that, although he might have become a Francophone author, it was his grandmother who encouraged his love of Arabic:

My first novel was published in Syria and was very well received. If it had not had success, I might have returned to the French language.

But Laredj does not discount the French influence on Algerian literature, nor the Berber. From Vitamine DZ:

Quel parcours conseilleriez-vous pour appréhender la littérature algérienne de ses écrivains fondateurs à la jeune génération d’aujourd’hui ? Waciny Laredj : La littérature algérienne est traversée par le français, l’arabe et la langue berbère qui s’appuie sur l’oralité. Toute approche ne prenant pas en compte cette diversité demeure limitée mais cette richesse n’a pas été pleinement assumée car la littérature algérienne reste unie par son “algérianité”.

A (Google) translation:

What route would you recommend to understand the literature of his Algerian writers founders to the young generation of today? Waciny Laredj: The Algerian literature is crossed by the French, Arabic and Berber language based on oral tradition. Any approach not taking into account this diversity remains limited, but this wealth has not been fully met as the Algerian literature is united by its “Algerianism.”

More about the author (in French).

For the 2011 prize, Laredj has been longlisted for his novel The Andalucian House, which organizers describe as such:

The Andalucian House relays the history of a house in Granada through the stories of the people who live there over the centuries. Amongst its many residents are two famous, real-life characters: the first, Dali Mami, a sixteenth-century pirate who fought for the Turks and was responsible, amongst other things, for Miguel de Cervantes’s period of captivity in Algeria and the second Emperor Napoleon III, whose wife Eugenie was born in Granada.

Previously profiled: Egyptian Miral al-Tahawy, longlisted for her Brooklyn Heights, Bensalam Himmich, longlisted for My Tormentor, Fawaz Haddad, longlisted for God’s Soldiers, Khairy Shalaby, longlisted for Istasia, Raja Alem for The Doves’ Necklace, and Renee Hayek for A Short Life. See the full longlist here.