Translation as a new perspective in Amazigh literary discourse

[This article is part of a dossier on Tankra Tamazight, Amazigh Revival, and Indigeneity in North Africa, edited by Brahim El Guabli. To read other articles in this dossier, read the introduction here.]

This article takes as a central question the role of translation throughout the novel in the evolution and reorientation of literary discourse as a new genre, a line of thought not yet explored by Amazigh literary research. Far from attempting a quantitative study of the different translations, we have instead chosen to focus on a small selection of novels translated into Amazigh which highlight certain contributions to the evolution of the Amazigh novel genre.

The value of our research lies in the fact that the practice of translation is of paramount importance in the making and evolution of the Amazigh novel (Maingueneau, 2004). Through different modes of writing, literary translation has the particularity of giving written works a chance to gain international fame. Moreover, the translation is conducive to the transmission of universal themes and stylistics. Indeed, the translated works were able to introduce new themes and textual structures into the Amazigh novelistic discourse.

The lack of interest shown so far in studies of translated Amazigh novels is due, on the one hand, to the difficulty of categorizing the complexities of novel writing as a new genre imbued with textual stylistics and finalities and functions. communicative (Sadi 2019), and on the other hand on the other hand, to the predominance of novels which are extensions of the traditional style of oral narration of the Imazighen.

This state of affairs distinguishes the two practices by defining the essential characteristics of each. In novel writing, creative practice is an extension of the traditional oral style and the act of writing is associated with the lived identity of the author, as inflected by their text (Salhi, Sadi, 2016). In terms of translation, however, the textual choices of the genre and the ideological positions that impose themselves on them are put forward in relation to the original text.

The emergence of novelistic discourse: localization in identity

The Amazigh novel as a genre, just like theater and cinema, emerged in rather singular political conditions, in the shadow of major movements for the institutional and constitutional recognition of the Amazigh language. Thus, novel writing as a new genre often appears as a militant act, characterized by identity politics (Alliche, 981-1986; Sadi, 1983; Mezdad, 1990).

Moreover, this advocacy channel, adopted by activists, has played a great role in supporting and framing various identity struggles. Thus, when activists engaged in novel writing, they were able to create both a new current of literary expression and the beginnings of a cultural project anchored in the political moment. During the 1980s and 1990s, four novels in particular marked the emergence of romantic discourse in Algeria for the Kabyle people. These are Aliche’s two novels: Asfel (“The Sacrifice”) and fafa (“diminutif de France”), published in 1981 and 1986 respectively, Askuti (“The Scout”) by Sadi, published in 1983 and I am summer (“Night and Day”) by Mezdad, published in 1990. That said, some literary critics (Ameziane, 2008, Salhi, 2010) have also pointed the finger Lwali n wedrar[1] “The Saint of the Mountain” by Belaid Ait Ali (1964) as a pioneering text in Kabyle literature. Since the 90s, Amazigh novels have known a remarkable evolution through more than a hundred texts.

This is also true of Shlūḥ, the long scriptural tradition of the Amazigh language (Bouyaakoubi, 2020). The creation of the Tirra Association (2009) played a big role in the emergence and evolution of Shlūḥ novels. The credit goes to Mohammed Akounad and Mohammed Ousouss, who knew how to pass on literary traditions to a new generation of writers. In the space of three novels, Tawargit d imik “a dream and a little more”, Ijjign n tidi “Flowers of Sweat” (2007) and Tamurt n’ilfawn “The Land of the Boars”, published in 2002, 2007 and 2013 respectively, Akounad earned his position as the pioneer author of the Shlūḥ novels. Since then, he has produced seventeen novels (Bouyaakoubi, 2020).

As for the Riffian language, literary production was born thanks to the publications of Chacha, reẓ ṭṭabu ad d teffeɣ tfukt (Break the taboo and the sun will appear”) and Tayri n tayri (The Love of Love), published in 1995 and 2016 respectively.

Translation for a new era of the novel

After the first stage of this literary tradition, where novel writing was part of broader identity struggles, a new generation of writers emerged who intended to position themselves in a more universal literary discourse by translating works of international renown. This new method of novel writing aims to redefine the discourse around the novel, framing it as a new genre with new textual structures, new thematic orientations and new societal functions.

This view of creating novels through translation from Arabic, English, and French resulted in significant literary evolution across a range of texts. Kabyle won first prize with around twenty novels. The following table summarizes most of the essential translated texts.

Shlūḥ comes second with seven novels (Bouyaaakoubi, 2020).

Examination of the quantitative results of the two tables allows us to identify two important trends in this translation work. One part appeals to memory and historical identity in its translation of French Maghreb novels (Mammeri, Feraoun, Camus, Yacine, etc.). There is also a competing vision that seeks to capture the universality of the genre (Westwood, Carter, Orwell, etc.).

Both visions aim to integrate the Amazigh novel into the new textual, thematic and social perspectives of the world literary arena. These characteristics give the Amazigh novel a new context that allows it to take a westernized turn.

In (De)Conclusion

As this article traces the path of various Amazigh translations, it should be mentioned that this novelistic practice gives an important place to the novel as a universal genre. The camp focused on the translation of Maghrebi works sheds light on the history of literary borrowings, while the more universal vision of writer-translators aims to bring Amazigh works into dialogue with world literature.

Additionally, it should be noted that this work is still in its preliminary stages and there is still a lot of cross-genre analysis to be done. It would be particularly enriching to do so through a comparison of two texts (source text and translated text). The aim would be to highlight the similarities and differences between the original and the translation, with a view to highlighting the stylistics of the translated genre. It would be just as interesting to confront the vision of the creator with that of the translator, in an attempt to highlight the role of translation in the redefinition of the Amazigh novel.

[This article was translated from the French version by Benjamin Connor.]


Abrous, Dehbia, 1989, Kabyle novel production: an experience of passage to writingDEA (dir. S. Chaker), University of Provence.

Abrous, Dehbia, 1991, “Some remarks about the transition to writing in Kabyle”, Proceedings of the international conference Unity and diversity of TamazightGhardaïa, April 20 and 21, p. 1-14.

Aliché, Rachid, 1981, Asfel. Mussidan: Federop, 139 pages.

Aliché, Rachid, 1981, Faffa. I yuɣen irgazen ur ttrun. Mussidan Federop,

Ameziane, Amar, 2008, Tradition and renewal in Kabyle literaturedoctoral thesis, Bounfour, A. (under direct. of), Paris-INALCO.

Bouyaakoubi, Anir, 2020, “Tirra, Alliance of Amazigh writers. A new dynamic around writing in Amazigh in Morocco”, Imesli Islands Magazine, volume 12, No. 01, PP. 05-21

Chaker, Salem, 1992, “The birth of a written literature: the Berber case (Kabylie)”, Bulletin african studiesno. 17-18, p. 7-21.

Chaker, Salem, 2007, “Berber Language and Literature”, Clio2007, p. 1-10.

Maingueneau, Dominique, 2002, Analyze communication textsParis, Nathan.

Maingueneau, Dominique, 2004, literary discourse. Paratopia and scene of enunciationParis, Armand Colin.

Mezdad, Amar, 1990, I am summer. Algiers: Asalu, 182 pages.

Sadi, Nabila, 2019, Problems of novelistic writing in Kabyle. sociopoetic approach, Doctoral thesis, Mouloud Mammeri University of Tizi-Ouzou, Algeria.

Salhi Mohand-Akli., Sadi, Nabila, 201, “The Maghrebian Novel in Berber”, Contemporary French and Francophone Studies 20(1), pp. 27-36.

Sadi, Sadi, 1983, Askuti. Paris: Imedya

[1] Work written in the 1940s and published with other texts in “the notebooks of Belaid Ait Ali”. [2] This table is taken from Bouyaakoubi’s article “Tirra, Alliance of Amazigh Writers. A new dynamic around writing in Amazigh in Morocco. ISLANDS OF IMESLI REVIEW 12, no. 1 (2020), p. 05-21.

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