Friday Finds: ‘Francophone Algerian Poets’

The January 2019 edition of Words Without Borders features three Algerian poets, with an introduction by poet-translator Marilyn Hacker:

By the late self-taught Algerian artist Baya Mahieddine (1931-1998).

From Hacker’s introduction:

Algerian Francophone literature is, one could say, a child of the twentieth century. It has its origins both in the struggle for independence—gained in 1962—and in Algerians’ determination to recount their own collective history and individual histories with the tools and resources of the French educational system, with its literature, past, and poetry, imposed on Algeria when it was a colony of France. Algerian-French literature remains lively today, post-independence, even as schooling is primarily in Arabic, albeit a standard Arabic (literary or journalistic) distant and different from the local spoken dialectal language, and still excluding Tamazight, which was and is the original language of Algerians of Berber/Kabyle origin.

The three poets selected are from three different poetic and historic eras: Djamal Amrani, Samira Negrouche, and Habib Tengour. Hacker has previously translated Tengour’s Crossingsas well as several works by Negrouche. Little of Amrani’s work has been translated to English, but Negrouche’s poem “Memory of a Father” (tr. Hacker) is dedicated to Amrani.

All six poems were translated by Hacker.

Djamal Amrani (1935-2005):

From “The Night Inside”

Beneath a Pile of Rubble

Habib Tengour (b. 1947):

Celebration of the Absent One

The Tartar from the Kremlin

Samira Negrouche (b. 1980):

Minus One

In the Shadow of Grenada

The rest of WWB’s January issue is also a joyful read. It focuses on “International Humor” and includes Fouad Laroui’s “The Curious Case of Dassoukine’s Trousers,” tr. Emma Ramadan.