‘I write in French to tell the French that I am not French’—Algerian Francophone poetry featured in Words Without Borders

In the January 2019 issue of Words Without Borders, translator and poet Marilyn Hacker discusses the fascinating resistance history of Algerian poetry and shares several poems by some of the most exciting writers, living and late, who make up that tradition.

Hacker says:

I can only hope that the lyrical strength and pertinence of the poets among them will draw more readers—French, North African, others—to North African writing, and back to poetry itself as a source of human communication, unexpected but useful information, and readerly pleasure in the French-speaking world and in translation.

Although the title of the issue is ‘Laughing Matters: International Humor’, many of the poems have a serious tone. In Samira Negrouche’s ‘In The Shadow of Grenada’, for example, desire and grief make for uneasy bedfellows:

The storm will be inside you
uncertain storm
of unexplored

Heartbeat with a flame’s
a thigh’s

will become
a punctual

‘Celebration of the Absent One’ by Habib Tengour and ‘Beneath a Pile of Rubble’ by Djamal Amrani recall Algerian heros, meanwhile, weaving their memory with the urgency of current politics.

Image: Yue Minjun, A-maze-ing Laughter, 14 patinated cast-bronze figures, courtesy of Words Without Borders

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