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On the Trace of the Other: Memory, Melancholia, and Repression in Rachid Boudjedra's Timimoun John Culbert L'altérité est dissymétrie de toute identité... Qui souffre en moi sinon cet autre ! —Abdelkebir Khatibi, Maghreb pluriel IN THE EARLY 1990s, Rachid Boudjedra published two books addressing the Algerian civil war, which was prompted by the army's annulment in January 1992 of the election that would have brought the fundamentalist Front Islamique du Salut (FIS) to power. FIS de la haine, a political essay, is a passionate diatribe against fundamentalist doctrine and the violence perpetrated in its name. The essay is no less an assault on the society that carelessly brought the FIS into being; in Boudjedra's willful metaphor of filiation, the FIS is also the misbegotten fils of the FLN, the revolutionary party that led Algeria to independence from France. Boudjedra himself, blacklisted for "blasphemy" by the FIS, has lived since 1983 under the threat of assassination . The second of Boudjedra's texts to speak to the civil war is a novel, Timimoun , whose narrator is obsessed by fundamentalist terror and who, like Boudjedra, carries cyanide on his person due to the constant fear of assault. To the extent that the novel is framed by this political context, it offers a narrative critique of FIS terror from the perspective of one of its victims. Interestingly , however, the narrator's obsessive fear of violence matches the violence to which he subjects himself. Reckless, suicidal, and self-tormenting, the narrator is bent on losing himself in the desert, "le lieu idéal pour souffrir ,"1 and the news bulletins of terror that reach him over the radio both repel and fascinate him. The narrator's hatred of his father is one of the determining features of his family romance, and the beratements of his conscience, its terrorizing power, are the internalized product of his hateful filiation. In this way, Timimoun portrays a psychic drama of power in which political violence takes another stage. This psychological framing of political violence in Boudjedra 's novel enables an intimate journey into the unwitting seductions of violence , the legacy of trauma, and the quest for identity. Beyond the reductive discourse of antagonism, the strife of warring parties and rival claims to national identity, Timimoun dramatizes a divided subject and the price paid for his compromised self-understanding. Vol. XLIII, No. 1 69 L'Esprit Créateur Since his groundbreaking 1969 novel La Répudiation,2 the hallmark of Boudjedra's literary work has been to link a high modernist experimental style and highly graphic psycho-sexual drama to the examination of contemporary Algerian society and history. A transgressive prose style is brought to bear on the symbolic orders of gender, sexuality, and the family in order to voice a critique of patriarchy, normativity, and sexual domination. In La Répudiation Boudjedra portrays the ravages caused to a family by the despotic father who repudiates his wife and neglects his children. In his failed rebellion against the patriarch and his "clan," madness and sexual obsession ensue for the narrator Rachid. Similar features are found in the narrative of Timimoun, which includes an absent father, a neglected wife, and an older brother who commits suicide. These intertexual echoes and their modifications invite comparative analysis of the two stories and their political context. Where La Répudiation delivers a rebellious condemnation of postcolonial Algeria's corruption, Timimoun delves into the social catastrophe that ensued twenty years later. In Timimoun family history doubles as historical background to the coming civil war; the narrator, like Freud's hysterics , suffers mainly from reminiscences, and the terror seems a near-hallucination of his mental condition. The narrator is haunted by his past, which wells up in jumbled episodes and repeated elements; repetition in the novel conveys a compulsive quality evocative of traumatic recollection. Ultimately , the novel leads toward a repressed element in the narrator's past, and this return of the repressed speaks both to the narrator's personal ailments and to the ravages of the present state of Algeria. Timimoun relates a bus trip into the Algerian Sahara, during the course of which the narrator, who remains nameless, reflects...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 69-80
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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