9 Short Stories by Algerian Women, in Translation

This series is supposed to highlight 9 short stories available online — as it did, last week, for Sudanese and South Sudanese women writers. However, it was difficult to find more than a handful of short stories by Algerian women writers, in English translation, online:

There are already only a few short stories by Algerian women translated to English. Most of these were originally written in French; Maïssa Bey’s collection Do You Hear the Mountains and Other Stories was translated by Erin Lamm, for instance, although none of Maïssa Bey’s stories seem to have been made available online. (There is an excerpt of her At the Beginning Was the Sea, translated by Chris Anderson.)

We could not find any short stories by Algerian women written in Arabic and translated to English available online; none by Zakia Allal, for instance, nor by Nadjet Dahmoun, nor Amina Cheikh. It was also difficult to find their work in magazines or anthologies. There seem to be none, for instance, in Modern Arabic Fiction: An Anthology, ed. Salma Khadra Jayyusi. Our Algeria and Morocco editor Nadia Ghanem notes, “There are so many exciting short story writers in Algeria, but the translation focus has been on novels.”

In the future, we hope to see more Algerian women’s writing in translation.


Baya Mahieddine’s “The Great Great Big Bird,” translated by Nadia Ghanem

As translator Nadia Ghanem writes, “Le Grand Zoiseau” narrates the story of a little girl who wants to marry, and, seeing her mother deny her the right, she takes matters into her own magic hands. The world depicted here is rooted in Kabyle/Amazigh tales and mythology. It opens:

Once, there was a little girl, and her mother was rather mean. The little girl wanted to marry, but her mother didn’t want that.

Nina Bouraoui’s “A Night in Timimoun,” translated by Aneesa Abbas Higgins

It opens:

I’d like to talk to you and tell you how I arrived here, around eleven in the morning, I’d like to describe the feeling of freedom to you, tell you how strange I felt as the plane flew over the sea of sand on its way to In Salah, how far removed from everything, how close to myself, for the first time in my life­, it didn’t seem like an act of heroism to me, more an act of love, yes, that’s what it was, an act of love; I acted out of love for myself, for the very first time, I did it for me and not for anyone else, it’s hard to explain, I’m still floundering, unsettled by the desert’s silence after Algiers, I haven’t found my bearings yet and I’m leaving again tomorrow for Tamanrasset, but when I look at you, sitting there alone by the pool in this hotel built by Fernand Pouillon in the heart of Timimoun, reading your book, I want to tell you the whole story, as if you were my confidante for a night and a day, and my conscience too because I seem to have lost my head, or perhaps I’ve found it again, I know I’m not in my usual state of mind.

Safia Ketou’s “The Mauve Planet,” translated by Nadia Ghanem

As translator Nadia Ghanem writes, in her introduction to the translation, “Ketou is probably the first contemporary Algerian novelist to have written science-fiction in French. I have come across no other Algerian novelists interested in sci-fi during this period, out of those who wrote in the French language, and have personally elected her the first sci-fi writer of post-independence Algeria. Someone must have written sci-fi in Arabic, and she or he remains to be found.” The story opens:

Ryad and Alym checked the flight deck of their space shuttle Faiza 7 together. They filled up the tank and bought provisions from the astronauts’ shop. Their new space-suit, made from a material resistant to every condition, had just been delivered. Now finally ready, the two astronauts waved to the commander of Base 88 and climbed in their pod. They were leaving the earth just as the first snowflakes were landing on the ground.

Leïla Marouane’s “Is This How Women Grow Up?” translated by Alison Anderson

August 1994.

The afternoon seemed endless, the heat relentless. She was stretched out on the bed, hardly dressed, reading, smoking, splashing herself with water, dropping off into a deep sleep. Then she roused herself and went back to her reading.


Assia Djebar’s “A Sentence of Love,” translated by Ros Schwartz

Available on Granta, the story opens: “I met Annie for the first time in 1995, in Algiers. A friend of my sister’s, she came from Paris and stayed with me for one night.”

In print:

Fadila al-Faruq’s “Homecoming,” from Arab Women Writers: An Anthology of Short Stories, ed. and translated by Dalya Cohen-Mor. This story tells of a character’s return to Algeria from France, and the culture shock of returning “home.”

Fadila al-Faruq’s “The Woman of my Dreams,” from Arab Women Writers: An Anthology of Short Stories, ed. and translated by Dalya Cohen-Mor. In this story, men are deceptively “progressive” but, beneath that, seek to exploit women.

Zuhur Wanisi’s “The Dreadful Sea,” from Arab Women Writers: An Anthology of Short Stories, ed. and translated by Dalya Cohen-Mor. This tells the story of a woman abandoned by her husband after he travels overseas to work and marries a foreigner.

In collections:

Maïssa Bey’s “Do You Hear the Mountains” from the collection Do You Hear the Mountains and Other Stories was translated by Erin Lamm. You can read an excerpt of the novella “Do You Hear the Mountains” via Amazon.

Read more:

Visit Nadia Ghanem’s algerianwomeninliterature.blogspot.com, Sara Kharfi’s Algérie Littéraire, and Nadia Ghanem’s tellemchaho.blogspot.com for more on Algerian literatures.