Obituary: Tahar Djaout

Tahar Djaout, editor-in-chief of Algerie-Actualite, was one of the outstanding Algerian Francophone writers of his generation. He began his literary career as a poet in the Seventies before making his mark as a writer of fiction in the Eighties. His four novels and a collection of short stories, published between 1981 and 1991, provide sensitive depictions of contemporary Algerian society.

Born in Azeffoun, in Greater Kabylia, Djaout grew up in Algiers in a Berber-speaking home. By the time he began his secondary education, he was fluent in Arabic, Berber and French. At Algiers University he studied mathematics and wrote poetry. While still a student he published his first collection of poetry, Solstice Barbele (1975).

After graduating in 1976, Djaout pursued a career in journalism, and joined the staff of the official French- language weekly newspaper Algerie- Actualite. He became editor-in-chief some years later, a post he held until his death. In January, he co-founded a weekly newspaper, Ruptures.

It is primarily for his novels that Djaout will be remembered. His first, L'Exproprie, published in Algeria in 1981, and reprinted in France in 1991, is not so much a work of fiction as 'a slice of life'. It tackles the themes of language and identity, both pressing issues in post-independence Algeria, where, after more than a century of French rule, Algerians found themselves at the crossroads between Arabo-Berber and Franco-European cultures. Like other Algerian writers before him, Djaout, in this novel, expresses feelings of bitterness at being deprived of his heritage and language.

His second novel, Les Chercheurs d'os (1984), won him international acclaim. Published in France, it describes an Algeria expending every effort to commemorate those who died in the war of independence 'while making life impossible for the living'. In his next novel, L'Invention du desert (1987), Djaout warned against despots, religious fanatics and all those who do not recognise human rights and individual freedom. His fourth and last novel, Les Vigiles (1991), for which he was awarded the much-coveted French literary prize the Prix Mediterranee, is set in present-day Algiers, and describes a world dogged with bureaucracy and lack of respect for the individual.

Tahar Djaout was a man of great charm, generosity and sense of humour. His untimely death at the age of 39 has robbed Algerian literature of one of its best voices. He was shot in the head - by suspected Moslem fundamentalists - while on his way to work on 26 May, and went into a coma. He died a week later without regaining consciousness. Perhaps the following lines from a poem he wrote more than 20 years ago would serve as a fitting epitaph:

From now on

Your bullets will cause no fear

As I walk into the shadow of your

machine-gun fire

Farida Abu-Haidar

Tahar Djaout, writer and journalist: born Azeffoun, Kabylia, Algeria 11 January 1954; died Algiers 2 June 1993.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor