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Transnational and Translinguistic Relocation of the Subject in Les Nuits de Strasbourg by Assia Djebar Philippe Barbé AFTER MORE THAN 10 YEARS OF SILENCE, Assia Djebar's return to writing in 1980 with the publication of Femmes d'Alger dans leur appartement' was marked by the emergence of a strong spatial and topological thematic that would develop throughout the 1980s and the 1990s. It is possible to distinguish two major phases, which correspond to two different yet complementary relationships to space. Throughout the 1980s, Djebar explicitly questioned the closure of the Algerian domestic space. Femmes d'Alger dans leur appartement in 1980, L'Amour, la fantasia in 1985 and finally Ombre sultane in 1987 offer more than a simple denunciation of the captivity of these Algerian women behind the four high walls of the harem.2 Indeed, Djebar unveils a series of tactics which could help the secluded Algerian woman in her attempt to adjust to captivity, to transgress the closing of her domestic space, and finally to gain access to the forbidden outside. Djebar's description of the emancipation of secluded women corresponds to what Gaston Bachelard describes in La Poétique de l'espace as a dialectics of rapprochement and penetration between the inside and the outside.3 If the first emancipatory movement can be described as an access to the outside of the inside, Djebar's works in the 1990s are going to operate a shift towards a more complex thematic of the outside of the outside. The difficulty in mapping out and clearly visualizing the new access to the outside of the outside can be explained by the loss of the original binary opposition (the outside versus the inside) and the repetition of the outside which does not define itself anymore in relation to its assumed opposite: the inside. As revealed in her latest books (Le Blanc de l'Algérie, Oran langue morte and especially Les Nuits de Strasbourg*), the long-awaited access to the outside (i.e., the public sphere) of the inside (i.e., the harem) often forces the newly emancipated Algerian women to aimlessly wander outside of Algeria without being able to discover a new locus that they could absolutely master and make their own. Based on a close reading of Les Nuits de Strasbourg, I wish to show how Djebar unveils a new sense of belonging by virtually mapping out in Alsatian soil the tragic exterritoriality of the outside of the outside. Tom between different continents, cultures, religions and languages, the main characters in Les Vol. XLI, No. 3 125 L'Esprit Créateur Nuits de Strasbourg slowly reconstmct a complex transnational space around the martyred city of Strasbourg where their broken and often incompatible existential trajectories will ultimately meet and be reconnected. The choice of Strasbourg as the central location of the narration seems surprising because Djebar clearly states that she wrote this novel as a followup to her two previous books in which she reacted to the recent bloodshed in her homeland.5 In order to understand better why Djebar chose to situate her novel describing the agony of Algeria in a French setting, it is necessary to go back first to the tormented history of Alsace and its capital: Strasbourg. Located on the outskirts of the Rhine River, Strasbourg is a border town that has been divided for centuries by a series of conflicts opposing France and Germany. A French territory since its 1681 annexation by Louis XIV, Strasbourg was recaptured by the Prussian army in 1870. It took almost 50 years, until the Versailles peace treaty in 1918, for the French nation to regain control over Strasbourg and Alsace. This French sovereignty was nonetheless fragile and short-lived. In 1940, the German troops of the Third Reich invaded once again the capital of Alsace which would ultimately be liberated in 1944 by the allied troops of the French general Leclerc. If these major military conflicts between France and Germany transformed Strasbourg into a "city of separation," other less known historical events reveal a more positive and peaceful dimension of this city. Because of its exceptional geographical location, Strasbourg, etymologically the "city of roads," played an important role...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 125-135
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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