Academie Francaise elects first Algerian member

16th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 16 (AFP) - France's most prestigious cultural institution the Academie Francaise received its first ever member from the former north African colonies Thursday with the election of Algerian novelist and film-maker Assia Djebar.

PARIS, June 16 (AFP) - France's most prestigious cultural institution the Academie Francaise received its first ever member from the former north African colonies Thursday with the election of Algerian novelist and film-maker Assia Djebar.  

Djebar, 68, has written more than 15 novels in French as well as poetry and short stories, receiving widespread acclaim for her treatment of Muslim women and their struggle for emancipation. She has also made two films.  

Currently professor of French literature at the University of New York, she was chosen as one of the 40 "immortals," as the elite members of the 360 year-old Academie are known.  

Born in the coastal town of Cherchell in 1936, Djebar - whose real name is Fatima-Zohra Imalayene - came to France at the age of 18 and was the first Algerian woman to be admitted to the country's top literary university the Ecole Normale Superieure.  

In 1957 she published her first novel - La Soif (Thirst) - which was favourably compared to the current best-seller Francoise Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse. Its protagonist was a westernised Algerian girl like herself.  

Djebar sympathised with the banned Algerian resistance movement during the long war with the French colonial power. After independence in 1962 she taught history at the University of Algiers.  

Resisting pressure to switch to Arabic, she concluded that French was her literary language - but that in writing it she could still remain true to her Algerian heritage.    

Her best-known works such as Loin de Medine (Far from Medina), Le blanc d'Algerie (Algerian White) and Femmes d'Alger dans leur appartement (Women of Algiers in their apartment) have been translated into many languages.  

The Academie Francaise was founded by Cardinal de Richelieu in 1635 and its principal task is compiling the definitive French dictionary. Meeting once a week, the "immortals" are currently on the letter "R" of the ninth edition.  

Members are chosen for life, and Djebar took the seat of the writer Georges Vedel who died in 2002.  

She will not be the first person from France's former colonies to sit in the Academie's palatial headquarters on the Quai de Conti. Leopold Sedar Senghor, the former president of Senegal and a renowned poet, was a member from 1983 to his death in 2001.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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