Malek Alloula was born in Oran (Algeria) in 1937. He is a graduate of the Ecole Normale Supérieure and studied literature in Algiers and at the Sorbonne. After his brother, one of the leading intellectuals of his country, was killed by islamists in 1994, Alloula created and headed the Association Abdelkader Alloula (AAA) for ten years. In this period he published a volume with homages and commemorations dedicated to his brother entitled »En mémoire du futur« as well as French translations of two of his dramatic works: »Lajouad« and »Lagoual« Alloula has been a publisher‘s editor in Paris from 1974 until 2012.
Alloula writes poetry and prose as well as essays on poetics and philosophy in French. His early poetry collections contain dense, epiphany-like miniatures, concerned with existential themes from the outset. In 1966, in »Souffles«, the journal dedicated to cultural criticism, Alloula spoke out against the appropriation of poetry in the service of the Algerian Revolution following the liberation from France in 1962. Alloula is also poetic in his prose works – which is clear in »Les Festins de l’Exil«: here, in Parisian exile, the taste of familiar food recalls memories of Algeria. The author introduces an important aspect of Algerian-Berber culture: festive hospitality. In philosophical and autobiographical essays he answers 33 questions about the act of eating. He also inquires, in his most recent collection of autobiographical short stories, »Le Cri de Tarzan«, into how the past can be communicated – and he does so through language rich in masterfully loving irony without any melancholy or nostalgia. He collects significant episodes from his childhood, remembering his father, his teachers, and his friends – the witnesses of his youthful, Trickster-style escapades. Alloula’s most well-received book is, without a doubt, »Le Harem Colonial. Images d’un sous-érotisme« (1980/2004; Am. »The Colonial Harem«, 1986). It is to this day a classic essay in the critical tradition of orientalism in the school of Edward Said, in which Alloula interprets the colonial photographic gesture in the light of Roland Barthes’ theories on photography with reference to the psychoanalytical category of »Fantasmas« which – like the harem itself – at once attracts and repels the European observer. In the »photo novel« »Paysages d’un retour« (2010) the compositions by artist Pierre Clauss complement Alloula’s stories of a man living in exile who returns to his home village in Algeria, but finds no traces whatsoever of his past there, instead finding only concrete ruins that symbolise the forced process of forgetting. Most recently he also wrote the text for a photographic book »Alger sous le ciel« (2014) in collaboration with architect Halim Faïdi and photographer Kays Djilali.
In 2014 he was a guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program, where he wrote on his cyle of poems »il vient (métérologies)«. Malek Alloula died in February 2015.