Rachid Boudjedra was born in Aïn Béïda, in eastern Algeria in 1941. He went to school in Tunis, where he studied at the élite Lycée Saddiki and became familiar with the basics of both Arab, and western culture. In 1962 he began studying philosophy in Algiers, in which subject he eventually graduated from the Sorbonne in Paris.
After having published six novels in French in 1981 he began to write in Arabic. He resumed writing in French in the mid-1990s.
His first book »La répudation« (1969, tr: The Repudiation), which was translated into several languages but banned in Algeria until 1980, won the Prix des enfants terribles, funded by Jean Cocteau. At the heart of »La répudation« is a mother’s act of repudiation, which becomes a traumatic event for her five year-old son. When the protagonist later seduces his father’s young lover – his stepmother – this becomes an act of revenge and an allegation of guilt directed at his father’s generation, who control all positions of power and deny the younger generation its chances.
Boudjedra’s goal is also, in his own words, to question the official Algerian interpretation of history and uncover its contradictions. Illustrating this approach, he tore aside the myth of a glorious past in »Les 1001 nuits de la nostalgie« (1979, tr: The 1001 Nights of Nostalgia). He speaks in »al-Tafakkuk« (1981, tr: The Unweaving) of the Communists’ contribution to the war of liberation. His theme in »La prise de Gibraltar« (1987, tr: The Taking of Gibraltar) is early colonial history in Arab culture, which he illustrates using the conquest of Spain. In »L’escargot entêté« (1977, tr: The Stubborn Snail), a satire on an unrestrained bureaucracy, he was not only targeting his own country, but also won a million-strong readership in the Soviet Union. However, the political dimension is only one aspect of his work. He is driven above all by the quest to revitalise the novel in terms of new modes of storytelling and formal perfection. He identifies not only modern classics, such as Flaubert, Proust, Joyce and Faulkner, but also Günter Grass and, in particular, Claude Simon as his literary influences. Schooled in the Nouveau roman, he developed a style which early critics termed »verbal excess«. In the 1970s Boudjedra also became known as a scriptwriter for films, including »Chroniques des années de braise«, which was awarded the Golden Palm in Cannes in 1975. Boudjedra lives today in Algiers and Paris. His most recent novel, »Hôtel Saint Georges« (2007), has only appeared in Algeria to date.
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