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  • Coran et tradition islamique dans la littérature maghrébine
  • Hafid Gafaiti
Coran et tradition islamique dans la littérature maghrébine By Carine BourgetParis: Karthala, 2002. 190 pp. ISBN 2-84586-279-2 paper.

Because of the international context, many studies on Islam have been published in the last decades, and the number of publications on this topic has been increasing in recent years. The originality of Carine Bourget's Coran et tradition islamique dans la littérature maghrébine is its analyis of Islam not only as a religious discourse or a cultural background, but as a mode of production of meaning in novels and essays written by major francophone North African novelists and scholars.

In three chapters dedicated to women in Islam, the profane and Sufism, and syncretic Islam, Bourget produces a daring analysis of the texts of Fatima Mernissi and Assia Djebar, Tahar Ben Jelloun, and Driss Chraïbi in the sense that she traces in these strongly "francophone" productions both an important "Muslim" dimension and a challenge of orthodox Islamic discourse. She concentrates on the relationships between the East and the West in the texts of what she consider mediator between multiple cultures and hows that humanistic values belong to both civilization. Carrying out her reading from a sociocultural and literary perspective on the basis of the study of literary and sociological works for which Islam is a source of intertextual relations and intertwined imaginaries, the critic reasserts the centrality of literature in the current ideological and political debate.

Each chapter begins with a well-documented introduction on the central isues under discussion, such a the Western representation of Muslim women, the predicament of the North African writer torn between the West and the East, and the complex [End Page 151] relationship of the Maghrebian writer to Islam. This introduction is followed by a textual analyis of the work of the writers conidered and a synthei that combines the critic's personal reading and finding based on a comparative analysis between the novels and the Quranic text, hadiths (religious commentaries), and Maghrebian traditional culture.

An interesting aspect of this study consists of the variety of perpectives offered by the authors, namely, the observation that the Quranic intertext is explicit in the writings of the two women writers and implicit in the works of Ben Jelloun and Chraïbi. The other noteworthy aspect of the book is its insistence on the fact that one should transcend the narrow representation of Islam by the media and consider the more complext and sophisticated dimension of the multiplicity of Muslim discourse and experience as exemplified by the attraction of Sufism for many writers. Finally, Bourget insists on the difficult position of the francophone North African writer whose work does seem to escape an on-going proces of reification and recuperation by the Western media and literary establishment:

L'écrivain maghrébin est défini non seulement par son origine mais aussi par le sujet de ses romans. L'horizon d'attente de son lectorat, majoritairement européen, le cantonne dans la réalité maghrébine.


This original and well-written study is enhanced by a fine bilingual (French and English) and seriously selective bibliography.

Hafid Gafaiti
Texas Tech University


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pp. 151-152
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