This essay examines in detail Kateb Yacine's two tragedies, Le cadavre encerclé (1954) and Les ancêtres redoublent de férocité (1959), both of which treat Algeria's violent struggle for independence from France. I demonstrate how Kateb inflects classical tragedy's emphasis on eternal and universal suffering, with historicization and politicization. I locate Kateb's tragedies between Nietzsche's acceptance of suffering and death as the natural order of things, and Brecht's Marxist insistence on the unequivocal existential affirmation of life through understanding and enterprise. Kateb refashions the metropolitan model of ancient tragedy—both in its ideological content and in its stylistic form—with a modern political engagement. I propose that Kateb provides an exemplary dramatic template for the reflection of the complex tensions between suffering and optimism inherent in the struggle for social or political emancipation. I finally suggest that Kateb's transformation of tragedy affirms the autonomy not only of a new Algerian sovereign state, but also of his own unique anticolonial theater.