Libmonster ID: UK-1460


For half a century, Svetlana Prozhogina has been studying the works of Maghreb writers living and working in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, as well as those who emigrated to Europe.

These three countries have undergone numerous social and political transformations in the past century, and their peoples have experienced periods of difficult trials and different stages of the struggle for national independence, during which adherence to centuries-old traditions inevitably faced the inexorable challenges of the time. Writers, as well as all Maghreb cultural figures, experienced these processes especially painfully and difficult. They were faced with a difficult task-to reconcile the contradictory tendencies in the worldview of their fellow countrymen, to convince them to find their own, the only correct way to combine elements of the age-old way of life with the norms of cultural progress that most of the civilized world follows.

The specific nature of the "literary work" (as Mayakovsky said) of the writers of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia also lies in the fact that a significant number of them live and work outside their countries, having settled in Europe, mainly in France, where they emigrated together with hundreds of thousands of their compatriots. Most of their fellow countrymen set their sights on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea in search of a better life. Writers, on the other hand, are driven to join the heights of European culture or to disagree with the political changes that have taken place in their countries.

At the same time, they could not help but be interested in the problems of adapting their compatriots to the norms and traditions of European life - they devoted dozens of works to this. And some Maghreb writers managed to organically enter the European cultural environment, where they were accepted as equals. Their works are read with interest in many Western countries, and they have been awarded numerous literary awards and world-class prizes.

In an interview published today with the correspondent of the magazine "Asia and Africa Today" S. V. Prozhogina rightly notes that not today or tomorrow processes similar to those recorded in the Maghreb people's creativity will begin to occur in Russia. We will also have writers - Russians and natives of the North Caucasus, Central Asian and other national diasporas, who will be attracted by the theme of symbiosis of national cultures and local traditions. They will probably be interested to know how their cultural colleagues from other regions of the world reflect on these problems.

Just a few days ago, your new book "The World of Mountains"was published. Most likely, it has not yet reached the general public, so tell us about this work.

- The book is dedicated to one of the most important trends in the work of North African writers, which I have been researching relatively recently. We are talking about the "World of Mountains" - about people who live in the Maghreb in a mountainous area. These mountains have an exact geographical name - Upper Atlas, but the semantic range of this image in the literature is very wide.

In fact, the entire Maghreb consists mainly of deserts and mountains; and, of course, is washed by the sea and ocean. And if many writers write about the people of the desert - and I have often analyzed some of their works in my works, then books that tell about the "World of Mountains"somehow "escaped" my attention for a long time. Now, turning to this branch of Maghreb literature, I discover a lot of new and interesting things in it. So much so that I even had to reconsider some of my views...

You have lived in the Maghreb countries for a long time, you know this region of the East well, and you probably know many Maghreb writers personally. What has changed in their work since you first started studying the literature of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia?

- A lot has changed. If at that time - in the 1960s-Maghreb literature was a purely "local phenomenon" and the writers of these three countries were known only in their regions, now the best Maghreb writers are well known. If not all over the world, then certainly in most European countries - and not just in France, where many of them live and work. The subject matter of the works has also changed significantly: if 30-40 years ago they were devoted to the struggle for independence, the war that was waged in Algeria, now mostly their themes are "universal" - about the meaning of life, a person's self-identification in the modern world, about his love, about his hatred, finally. These works traditionally featured themes of the desert and the sea-the environment in which most Maghrebians live.

In many works, the image of the desert and the sea is a space of hope. I have written about his transformations in my works. Recently, the theme of the Mountain, or, as it turns out, the Mountain, has come to the fore.

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Here in Russia, we would say, the theme of mountain people is their traditions, way of life, and attitude in a rapidly changing reality. From the works of almost all major Maghreb writers of the XX and XXI centuries. - and writers-" mountaineers", if you can call them that, and "townspeople" too-it follows that it is the inhabitants of the mountains who are most likely carriers of the centuries-old traditions of peoples. Both ethno-everyday and ethno-political traditions - love of freedom, resistance to various oppressors. The" people of the Mountains, " according to mythology , are closer to the Sky than others, and therefore they hear the voice of the Great and Eternal Mind better than others and better understand the fundamental truths on which the World is based. As a result, they have a particularly strong sense of justice, and they are particularly intolerant of those who violate this justice.

We know that most often the government is unfair. Does this mean that the "People of the Mountains" are initially opposed to any government?

- They are simply more sensitive to manifestations of injustice on the part of the"authorities in power". The Moroccan writer D. Shraibi especially vividly told about this in his work "Interrogation in the Village", colorfully describing how a whole large tribe" goes to the sky", who did not want to hand over to people who abuse power, an alleged traitor and traitor, whom the" People of the Mountains " did not consider such.

"People of the Mountains" do not accept not only manifestations of injustice on the part of their homegrown "bosses". How to the extreme injustice they are-and this is very important! - they also refer to such a relatively new phenomenon as Islamic fundamentalism. This is vividly reflected in the novel "If the Devil Wills It" by the Algerian writer M. Dib. A novel about how the highlanders resisted the fundamentalists who appeared in their places. They sharpened "old knives" and cleaned guns left over from the days of anti - colonial Resistance to fight back against those who argued that Islamism was a continuation of the struggle for justice. The " People of the Mountains "did not allow themselves to be deceived, doing as they saw fit, clearing their land of" wild dogs " that interfered with their peaceful life. In this novel, in essence, the whole situation typical of Algeria at the end of the last century and the beginning of this century is "modeled", when local fundamentalists tried to direct the life of the state in the direction of radical Islam.

Now we can observe a similar situation, alas, on the examples of other Eastern countries...

- Do you intend to continue studying the literature of the Maghreb "World of Mountains", or do your plans extend beyond this-by far the most interesting-topic?

- Yes, of course, my work is not limited to literature about the "World of Mountains". My plans - and they are very voluminous-are to study many interesting aspects of Maghreb creativity. I want to study more deeply the work of a relatively small but very bright group of writers from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, who have recently become widely known - Ya.Khadra, B. Sansal, R. Boujedra and some others. I am interested in what their works attracted the reader's attention, what emotional strings of Europeans they touched. I am particularly interested in the work of the "Bers", i.e. those Maghrebians who were born in the West. I would like to devote a separate monographic study to each of them - their work is so significant and relevant to me. A very interesting topic is Algerian women writers. There are quite a lot of them, and they are all extremely different - there is a wide field for a literary researcher.

In our magazine, you wrote just about the fact that an extremely important topic is the creativity of Maghreb immigrants who have long settled in Europe. What exactly is it interesting for you?

- It is extremely interesting to study and analyze the work of such writers, for example, L. Sebber, M. Charefa, N. Buraoui. After all, some of them have "Europeanized" so much that their language and style are indistinguishable from native French writers. But the "voice of the ancestors" makes itself felt in the choice of creative subjects, the way of thinking, in the moral imperatives of the heroes of their novels and novellas. They still do not fit into the "European framework".

What is the specific nature of European Maghreb literature? What, in fact, is its difference from the national one-Algerian, Moroccan, Tunisian? I would like to study this in more detail and perhaps devote some theoretical work to this topic. The topic is not easy: Thousands of Maghrebians have been living in Europe for decades, they have almost lost touch with their homeland, they have children and grandchildren who have already become "almost Europeans". I wonder if there will be anything Maghrebian in the works of these children and grandchildren when they grow up and take up the pen?

In this regard, as an employee of an academic institute, I am naturally concerned about the expected reforms of the RAS system. Publishing works on relatively narrow literary topics is still not easy-I'm afraid that after perestroika it will be even more difficult.

Do the "European Maghrebites" care about what is happening in their countries now, do they sympathize with their peoples?

- They not only empathize, but also fight for their freedom with their pen. And this is also the theme of a number of works by writers who have not forgotten their roots. Many of the writers raise it, trying to reach the hearts of their young tribesmen. For example, this is exactly what the Algerian B. writes about. Sansal in the recently published novel "The German's Village".

To what extent do other Maghreb writers manage to do this? I think that, in general, the seeds fall into fertile soil. After all, many young Maghrebians face hostility from their French peers, discrimination when entering prestigious universities, etc. It is difficult for very young children-ethnic North Africans, because many of them, alas, lag behind in schools, and some are mercilessly expelled for failure. In short, to this day, there are more than enough reminders of the "non-French" origin of young Maghrebians. This is used by fundamentalist imams who have adapted to radical Islamists.-

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French schools are basements of abandoned buildings, of which there are quite a few in French cities. In the above-mentioned novel "The German's Village", these problems are highlighted more than vividly.

- It seems that you belong to the opponents of the "policy of multiculturalism", proclaimed a few years ago by representatives of the European intelligentsia..

- Now it is almost universally recognized that such a policy in Europe has failed. No matter what they say about cultural equality, ethnic minorities in European countries will continue to be more or less discriminated against by the indigenous majority for a long time to come. French culture, in any case, dominates in France. It seems that the Maghreb writers living in Europe are aware of this and do not put in their works the obviously unrealistic problem of complete and mutual assimilation of the two cultures today. What kind of "cultural equality" can there be if there are more and more barriers? What, for example, are the huge fines imposed in France - up to one and a half thousand euros - for wearing a veil?

But the topic of violations of the French identity itself is also often raised among the intelligentsia, who are dissatisfied with the fact that the "French Arabs" themselves often call the native French "aborigines". Many works describe such absolutely real, really happened cases. Thus, the value of the Maghreb literature I study also lies in the fact that it serves as a collection of original "documents of the epoch" that will help posterity better understand the realities of our time.

In one of your articles in our magazine, you mentioned the phenomenon of "women's literature" in the Maghreb countries...

- A peculiar outbreak of "women's literature" is a phenomenon typical not only for the Maghreb countries, but also for the literary process in the entire Islamic world. In my opinion, this is a direct response to the fact that literally everywhere about the specifics of the female soul has been written for many decades - and well written! - mostly men: think of our Turgenev and Tolstoy, the French-at least Anatole France and Guy de Maupassant... In the Eastern literature, the situation was about the same. The time has come when the need to talk about themselves, their problems and concerns came to women themselves. Women decided to perform in literature "in the first person". In European literature, the first female literary experiments took place in the middle of the penultimate century; in the East, in the Muslim environment, this time came later.

The first to do this were the Algerian writers A. Djebar and L. Debesh. And they did it brilliantly - their works on women's themes immediately became widely known, and A. Dzhebar even became a member of several academies, including the French One, and received a number of prestigious awards. There are now dozens of women writing in Morocco alone. One of the most significant and talented is S. Bukkedam. The main theme, of course, is the new opportunities that opened up for women of the East in the XX century. Even in monarchical Morocco, women had long ago-as early as the 1950s - gained access to secondary and higher education - something they had never even dreamed of before...

But here's what's interesting: judging by the works of Maghreb women writers, even a thrice-successful businesswoman, even a woman who has achieved outstanding success-an architect, an artist, a lawyer, a teacher, an engineer, a doctor, etc. - still do not feel happy without simple and ordinary family happiness. Or, more precisely, without mutual love, spiritual union with a man...

Isn't that a strange position? Women of the East have been fighting for equality in everything with men for so many years, and they have achieved a lot along the way... And now they dream of a kind of restriction of their freedom - this time about the possibility of finding strong family ties. Maybe this is the specificity of the Oriental woman and her difference from the European woman?.. Even if she has a big house, a mountain of money, a great position in society, she will never call herself happy if she does not have a family, a loving husband, children. Family for her is a sense of "roots", the need to communicate normally with both her relatives and her husband's relatives; a woman expects that her achievements in life will be appreciated by this environment. And this is a very "eastern" tradition. Freedom, of course, is important, but a big family, strong roots, a native home - all this is much more important! This is the leitmotif of most novels and novellas, of all the current" women's " Maghreb literature.

- I am afraid that if such books appear in translation on the shelves of Russian bookstores, our readers, and especially female readers, will not understand them: how is it possible to have everything you want and feel unhappy?.. It's not our way...

"Perhaps not in our way. But very Maghrebian. And I am entirely on the side of the women of the East here. After all, it is family values, or rather love and family, that should be the core of every woman's life. The writers of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia have felt this deeply, and their works, where this position is defended, inspire me with deep respect.

By the way, it is akin to the old Russian tradition: remember the words of the almost popular song - " If only I could be in sweet captivity..."Maybe that's why Russian women who marry Maghreb Arabs are mostly happy in their marriage. In any case, in understanding the role of love in family relationships, they have complete unity with their husbands. By the way, this is also noted in the works of a number of Russian researchers of problems of family relations.

We are mainly talking about writers who write prose - novels and novellas. Do Maghreb literature include such genres as short stories, satire and humor, and science fiction? What is the situation with poetry? And also with such a noticeable layer of literature as books for children?

- All these genres are represented quite widely. There are many books published for children. Unfortunately, an outstanding world-class children's writer, the Algerian R. Belamri, has recently died. Most prose writers also work in small genres at the same time.-

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rah - they write short stories, short stories, and essays. And some prose writers are also good poets, such as M. Dib, M. Haddad, T. Bekri. But I note that the genre diversity of Maghreb literature is a separate big topic. I will try to write a special article about this in your magazine.

You have quite a lot of publications about Maghreb literature. Do you think many readers are attracted to this rather specific topic?

- Allow me to "immodestly" answer your question: my works have one of the highest "citation indexes" among literary critics who publish articles and books about North African literature. My books don't seem to be stale on the shelves either, which means there are readers. In the West, Maghreb literature, apparently because of its originality and dissimilarity to the literature of the rest of the Arab world, shows a keen interest: books by writers from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia are published in the United States, Great Britain, Germany, not to mention France.

Well, what does the "average reader" of such books look like in the Maghreb countries?

- Writers in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia have a grateful audience - the circulation of books, by our, Russian standards, is quite large and almost completely sold out. All three countries mentioned above are market economies, and they simply do not publish literature that is not in demand. Readers of European countries, on the other hand, almost don't care if the book was written by a Frenchman or, for example, a Moroccan - it would be interesting and informative. Today, books written by Arabs or Berbers are perceived in Europe no longer as "oriental exotics", but as part of the overall integration of the literary process.

In the circles of the intelligentsia, perhaps, one can even state a somewhat increased interest in Maghreb French-language literature. After all, it is almost always a reflection of public sentiment in a particular country or social environment. What is traditionally interesting for the intelligent part of society.

In Russia now, it is difficult to find a book that is even slightly interesting, which would not be adapted by cinematographers. Are there any screen versions of Maghreb literature?

"There are a lot of them. There is even an Algerian writer, almost all of whose works are filmed-this is Me. Khadra. All three countries - Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia - have their own film studios, and film adaptations play a significant role in their plans. However, these films are mainly intended for the domestic market.

In passing, I will note that dozens of Maghrebin actors, directors, and screenwriters work in French cinema; especially many of them are Algerians.

Do Maghreb writers live by literary labor or are they forced to work somewhere?

- Such as, for example, the above-mentioned M. Dib and the famous Goncourt Prize winner T. Benjemun can be called professional writers; they, I assume, live or have lived only on royalties. The vast majority of people think that it is normal in modern Eastern literature, and no one is surprised by this. Sometimes the transfer of a writer to the category of professionals is helped by receiving a significant literary award. So, for example, the fate of the doctor of Philology A. Dzhebar has developed. But she also taught at the university for a long time afterwards. Last year, a major international prize was awarded to the writer B. Sansal.

Paradoxically, in my opinion, the most interesting books of modern Maghreb writers are written by writers who simultaneously work as architects, doctors, teachers, and lawyers. I assume that the proximity to life, acquaintance with dozens of people just gives them materials for their works.

Very few books by Arab writers are published in Russia, and almost no Maghreb writers are published at all. I have heard this explanation: they say that this world is too far from ours, and many works will be incomprehensible to the Russian reader. Do you think so too?

"No, I don't think so. For example, the Latin American, Chinese, and Japanese world, judging by the long list of published books and their circulations, turned out to be close to the Russian reader. And why is the Maghreb world out of the spotlight of our translators and publishers? I don't see any explanation for this.

I hope that this annoying "skew" will eventually be corrected. And, for example, the African Rashad Bujedra will become no less popular in Russia than the Latin American Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

And in conclusion. The editorial board of the journal congratulates you on your birthday and the 50th anniversary of your scientific and creative activity. With what mood do you celebrate your "double anniversary"?

- With the beautiful! There are a lot of plans, new meetings with Maghreb writers are ahead. These days, more than ever before, I feel that my work is not only literary, but also a certain socio-political character. Our country has recently faced a large number of problems related to migrants from the North Caucasus, the interpenetration and interaction of different cultures.

Many works of Maghreb writers, primarily living in Western European countries, tell about ways to solve or mistakes in solving such problems. And the everyday life practice of" growing " emigrants from North Africa into the European cultural environment is rich in examples of very different properties.

I sincerely hope that my attempts to describe all this through the prism of modern Maghreb literature will help Russian sociologists and politicians to understand these difficult issues.

The interview was conducted by I. M. PETROV

* For modern films of the Maghreb countries, see: Shakhov A. S. Sovremennoe alzhirskoe kino / / Aziya i Afrika segodnya. 2013, N 2; same name. Tunisia. Movies of recent years / / Aliya i Afrika segodnya. 2013, No. 6 (editor's note).


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