Tunisian writer Emna Belhaj Yahia’s novels depart from many of the patterns established by her peers in that they eschew certain conventions of local color and auto-exoticism in order to create new narrative worlds that blur the political and realistic framework of North African settings. While in her earlier novels Chronique frontalière (1991) and L’Étage invisible (1996) she uses realistic settings and a critique of conditions in Tunisia, especially the ones affecting women, with her consecutive novels she sets a different tone, eliminating recognizable place and character names in order to create a dreamlike and unhomely new world where characters are free to explore new relationships, chronologies and urban spaces. This change is especially noticeable in Tasharej (2000). In her most recent Jeux de rubans (2011), she continues in this mode, although she also includes a focus on recent sociopolitical events. Her characters continue to freely choose their careers, garments and destinies, and make it clear that these choices merely represent the two possible sides of an unfurling ribbon.

Homi K. Bhabha’s theories of border and world literature have provided useful tools in analyzing Emna Belhaj Yahia’s writings.


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pp. 113-136
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