Mammeri, Mouloud (1917-89). Algerian novelist, ethnologist, and essayist, a native of Kabylia. Mammeri's reputation in Algeria cannot be measured solely by his relatively small literary output, for he is revered by the Kabyles and Berbers across the Maghreb as a defender of their civil and political rights and as a custodian and promoter of their cultural values.
He was educated first at the local primary school and then in Rabat (Morocco), Algiers, and Paris. During World War II he fought for the French and the Allies in Algeria and in Europe. In 1957, at the height of the Algerian War, he went to Morocco, returning to Algeria after independence was won in 1962. He taught at the University of Algiers and directed a research centre at the Bardo Museum, later founding and directing a research centre for the study of Berber culture in Paris.
Mammeri published only four novels, two anthologies of Berber poetry, a Berber grammar, and a handful of plays, stories, and essays on Berber culture, the latter having been collected posthumously in a volume entitled Culture savante, culture vécue: études 1938-1989 (1991). His first two books are ‘ethnographic novels’ depicting local mores familiar to the author's countrymen but instructive, even exotic, to European readers. La Colline oubliée (1952) is a novel about growing up in a small Kabyle town and the first encounters with the colonial world, and Le Sommeil du juste (1955) recounts a young man's emancipation first from the narrow culture of his village and then from the impact of the colonial educational system. L'Opium et le bâton (1965) describes the questioning and the adventures of an Algerian doctor, against the backdrop of the Algerian War; the arena is vaster here than in the first two books, the style and vision more open. Finally, La Traversée (1982) is a poetic fable: a small group crosses the Sahara, a ‘crossing’ which assumes different symbolic functions, from a simple travel adventure to the historical evolution of Algeria and to the recapitulation of the protagonist Mourad's life, which comes full circle as he returns, ill and disillusioned, to die in the djemaa, or public square, of his native village.
He died in February 1989 near Aïn Defla in a car accident when he was returning from a conference in Oujda, Morocco. His funeral was spectacular, with more than 200,000 people in attendence. officials did not attended the funerals whereas a compact crowd stressed slogans against the government.
“You make me the cantor of the Berber culture and it is true. This culture is mine, it is also yours. It is one of the components of the Algerian culture, it contributes to enrich it, to diversify it, and for this reason I hold (as you should do it with me) not only to maintain it but develop it.” : Réponse of Mouloud Mammeri in connection with the donors of lessons , text circulating in Algeria in form typed in April 1980.
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