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Translations of Memory from Kateb to Sansal Bernard Aresu THE FOREMOST HISTORIAN OF ALGERIAN POLITICS, Benjamin Stora, has referred to the current civil war as "a tragedy behind closed doors" characterized "by an absence of [widespread] images."' Central to Stora's most recent analysis of the current Algerian civil war are several observations: its partial, truncated representations on both sides of the Mediterranean; its mediatic inaccessibility; in short, a crisis of representation. Stora also mentions other reasons for the informational confusion that surrounds the civil war, historical signs such as the opacity of its beginnings and the confusion of its origins: "La guerre est arrivée en Algérie sans vraiment s'annoncer, par touches successives, provoquant cette confusion des origines" (GI 15). Other symptomatic signs are the post-independence occultation of founding figures who lost their lives in the internecine political struggle among Algerians (GI 106-09), censorship and disinformation, as well as the notion of historical repetition of the revolutionary war against France. He also notes, in contradistinction to the paucity of mediatic exposure, the size of a new body of print materials which include journalistic but above all literary and autobiographical accounts of the war (GI 94-102). The notion of historical repetition of violence is of particular significance since it brings forth, Stora points out (GI 114), two major, perhaps heretofore underestimated, political factors: the role of the religious in the forging of a communitarian nationalism, and the trauma of experienced violence (the war of independence in the 1950s) reenacted within the independent State when its political or religious legitimacy is being contested (the civil war of the 1990s). One observation , toward the end of the book, helps bring into focus some of the points I would like to make in this study. Discussing the sense of historical repetition of violence that emerges out of the ongoing war, Stora states the following: "Ce qui lie les deux périodes, si importantes dans la formation de l'Algérie moderne, ce n'est ni leur ressemblance ni leur dissemblance, mais une intense circulation d'images, d'idées, de représentations, de paroles décelables dans un système d'échange mémoriel" (GI 115). What the representation of current events may be carrying within their own violent unfolding, Stora thus seems to be saying, amounts to much more than a mere sense of inevitable repetition. No less important, also, is the hidden, long-repressed code of their own hermeneutical and elaborative possibilities : the circulation of images, ideas, and representations discernible in 32 Spring 2003 Aresu the dynamic system of both individual and collective memories. For historical recurrence enables anamnetic processes. It facilitates the emergence of truth, albeit progressive and incomplete, elaborative and reticent, still controlled as it is by the apparatus of the state or contested by equally repressive warring factions.2 More recently James McDougall has minutely mapped out processes of "inscription and imagination of Algerian history" which, through such Islamic reformist, salafi writings as Ahmad al-Madanî's The Story of Carthage Through Four Ages,3, played a pivotal role in the elaboration of the anticolonial , but nonetheless unitary, mythologized structures of institutional history that became prevalent shortly after independence with the advent of the Boumediene and Chadli era. Part of the following analysis will not so much try to pick up where Stora and McDougall left off as to examine literary projections of the events for which they have provided such minute historical analyses. More precisely, this essay considers four exemplars of the memorial diversification and retranslation of historical experience. The clear-cut deconstructions of institutional views of Algerian history which they carry out seek to make sense of the current patterns of confrontational violence and of the civil war: premonitorily in the case of Kateb Yacine's posthumously published journalistic writings ; autobiographically—and problematically—in the case of Elisabeth Schemla's 1999-2000 Algerian journal; through highly individualized manipulations of the genre of the detective novel in the cases of Rachid Mimouni and Boualem Sansal.4 Briefly put, what is indeed at work in these four texts is a rhetoric of agonistic transformation, a narrative grammar of transition and translation. Be they...


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