Assia Djebars Fantasia

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Assia Djebars Fantasia

Assia Djebar’s Fantasia, is an autobiographical novel of an Algerian woman’s struggle to find her voice in a society that rewards the voiceless. In an area heavily laden with cultural traditions, she confounded these traditions by embracing the French language. Her struggles and development through the French language were very important themes within the novel. But what was Djebar’s link to the French language? Why did she pursue it in the manner that she did?

Djebar’s Algerian world was filled with traditions that kept women silent. From the veils over their heads to the lack of encouragement to read or write, women were kept down. Djebar longed for freedom and found it in the French language. Flocking to the language of her enemies, Djebar found expression in its words. “I cohabit with the French language:” writes Djebar, “I may quarrel with it, I may have bursts of affection, I may subside into sudden or angry silences – theses are the normal occurrences in the life of any couple.” (213) If we examine this passage we will find what the French language truly meant to Djebar. There had been a relationship kin to marriage between French and her. This relationship starts early in her life with an introduction to French from her father. When Djebar first started to write love letters in French, she began to find the freedom she never knew existed. The language attracted her with its “endless jewels.” This attraction was further spurred by the newfound freedoms she found in French schools. Djebar enjoyed the traditions and Quranic teachings imparted to her at the time however, she felt more fulfilled doing taboo things such as wearing shorts or playing sports.

Djebar talks about her love affair with a student. In this affair it was not the love of the man that drove her but more importantly and ironically the budding love of the language. I believe it was the language that intrigued her the most not the actual person. In the passage, Djebar made a point to mention the language used to write the letter, but not the name of the person. To me this signifies the language as being the focal point of the event and not the actual person.

If we look in the book, Djebar concentrates more deeply on her relationship with the French language over any other relationship that she had.

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