NYU French Literature Professor Assia Djebar, whose novels address post-colonial identity issues, has been elected to the Académie Française, France’s most prestigious cultural institution. Djebar is the first individual from the country’s former North African colonies to be elected to the institution.
New York University French Literature Professor Assia Djebar, whose novels address post-colonial identity issues, has been elected to the Académie Française, France’s most prestigious cultural institution. Djebar is the first individual from the country’s former North African colonies to be elected to the institution.
With her election, Djebar becomes one of the academy’s 40 “immortals,” the designation of membership to the institution, which was established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII. It is the oldest of the five academies of the Institut de France. Members are chosen for life. Djebar took the seat of the writer Georges Vedel, who died in 2002.
“Djebar is a writer of historic talent,” said Catharine Stimpson, dean of NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Science. “We should all be grateful to the Academy for recognizing her.”
Djebar, a Silver Professor of Francophone literature and civilization at NYU, recently wrote La Disparition de la Langue Française-Roman [The Disappearance of the French Language Novel] (2003) and La Femme sans Sépulture [The Woman without Burial Place] (2002).
Born and raised in Algeria when it was a French colony, Djebar was the first female Arab writer to receive the Peace Prize of the Frankfurt Book Fair, which she captured in 2000. Djebar, who writes in French, has stressed the importance of recognizing Arab writers who do not write in Arabic. She studied at the Sorbonne and received her doctorate from the Université Paul Valéry in Montpellier.
Djebar’s other works include the following: Ces Voix qui m´assiègent: En Marge de ma Francophonie [These Voices that Besiege Me: Outside of my French-Speaking World] (1999) and Les Nuits de Strasbourg [The Strasbourg Nights] (1997). Her works published in English include So Vast the Prison (1999) and Women of Algiers in their Apartment (1992).
Djebar has also won the International Prize of Palmi (Italy), the Marguerite Yourcenar Prize for Literature (Boston, MA), the International Literary Neustadt Prize (1996), and the International Critics’ Prize, Biennale of Venice, for the film “La nouba des femmes du Mont Chenoua.”
Prior to her arrival at NYU in 2001, Djebar was the Distinguished Foundation Professor, as well as the Director of the Center for French and Francophone Studies at Louisiana State University. She is a spokesperson for the women of the Maghreb and a human rights activist. In addition to her numerous novels, plays, and short stories, Djebar has produced two films.
Djebar is one of the inaugural Silver Professors at NYU. The named chairs were made possible by a gift from the Jurodin Fund, Inc., the foundation created by NYU alumnus and life trustee Julius Silver, who died in 2002.
New York University, which was established in 1831, is one of the largest and most prestigious private research universities in the U.S. It has more international students than any other U.S. college or university. Through its 13 schools and colleges, NYU conducts research and provides education in the arts and sciences, law, medicine, dentistry, education, nursing, business, social work, the cinematic and performing arts, public administration and policy, and continuing studies, among other areas.