23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Maïssa Bey
© Hartwig Klappert

Maïssa Bey

Maïssa  Bey (real name Samia Benameur) was born near Algiers in 1950. She studied Romance Studies and worked as a teacher up to the 1990s. In response to the bloody conflicts which shook her country during the so-called Black Decade (1992-2002) she broke her silence and began writing using her grandmother’s name as a pseudonym. Maïssa  Bey –  who describes herself as »an Arabic woman by birth, culture, and language. And a Muslim. Profoundly shaped by Muslim culture and tradition« – chose literature in order to become more than a passive, mute witness to events whose violent nature challenges all her senses.

Her first novel (1996, »Au commencement était la mer«), the tragic story of a young Algerian girl who is found guilty of trying to follow her dreams in a society  dominated by fundamentalist violence, met with immediate acclaim in France. At the heart of her collection of novellas, »Sous le jasmin la nuit« are disenfranchised and voiceless women. She points her finger at the contradictions of male-dominated Muslim society, touches on the ›non-dits‹, and confronts those words which are thought but never spoken. While her novel »Bleu, blanc, vert« tackles the conflicts of the Algerian post-war generation (1962-92) with tradition and modernity, the  novel »Entendez-vous dans les montagnes«, also adapted for the stage, deals with issues of guilt and responsibility. In light of the still unresolved Algerian and French past and rejection of Algeria in its cultural, linguistic and historical wealth, Maïssa  Bey covers on hundred and thirty-two years of Algerian history in twenty-five images in »Pierre Sang  Papier ou Cendre« (2008), in which Madame LaFrance, tall and dressed in unstained white linen, descends to ›her‹ Earth in order to share her light and culture with the barbarians only to leave napalm-scorched earth in her wake. The original title is borrowed from Paul Eluard’s poem »Freedom«, written in 1942 under the Nazi occupation of France.

Maïssa  Bey has been awarded numerous prizes in France and in Algeria, as well as the LiBeratur Prize for her novel »Surtout ne te retourne pas« (2005). Her story »Overcoming the Day« has been published in German .The author is currently working on a novel about Algeria’s recent past. Maïssa Bey lives and works in Sidi Bel Abbes, Algeria.

© international literature festival berlin


Sous le jasmin la nuit
Eds de l’Aube
La Tour d’Aigues, 2004

Surtout ne te retourne pas
Eds de l’Aube
La Tour d’Aigues / Barzakh
Algier, 2005

Bleu Blanc Vert
Eds de l’Aube / Barzakh

Pierre Sang Papier ou
Eds de l’Aube / Barzakh

L’une et l’autre
Eds de l’Aube / Barzakh

Bewältigung des Tages
ApoDion Verlag
Schöngeist Heft 21
Berlin, 2009
[Ü: Christine Belakhdar]