Djebar, Assia, Literary Fiction

Review of L’Amour, la fantasia by Assia Djebar L'amour, La Fantasia (Le Livre De Poche) (French ...L’Amour, la fantasia [Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade] by Assia Djebar is a book about the female Algerian experience. It is just as much about colonialism as it is about patriarchy. The book is divided into movements, like a musical fantasia. The sections alternate between an account of the 1840s colonization of Algeria by the French, the involvement of women in the Algerian Revolution of the 1950s (which ended in 1962), and the author’s own childhood during the Revolution. Djebar’s prose style is also varied. Some parts are in prose poetry while others are in more traditional prose.

Assia Djebar is considered the greatest female Algerian writer of the 20th-century, and for good reason. L’Amour, la fantasia is a powerful exploration of a female Algerian identity shaped by cultures, languages, and religions. Although Djebar writes in the language of the oppressor, she interrogates the accounts left by the French conquerors of Algeria. The French language is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because it provided the author with educational opportunities; Djebar was the first Muslim woman to graduate from an école normale supérieure (essentially the French “Ivy League”) in France. A curse, because the effects of colonialism continue to be felt both in Algeria and in France.

This book is challenging in both its form and its content. The novel assumes a knowledge of people and places that the Western reader probably does not have. I believe that this is a deliberate strategy to de-center the European gaze. Postcolonial fiction, such as L’Amour, la fantasia, is always challenging for those of us who are unfamiliar with its history. Since reading this book, I have been inspired to learn more about both the conquest of Algeria and in the Revolution. I also hope to read more from Djebar in the coming months.

L’Amour, la fantasia is one of my 20 Books of Summer for 2020.

Obscure Fiction

Eléonor d’Yvrée (1687) by Catherine Bernard | Forgotten Fiction

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « eleonor d'yvree »Today, I created my first book entry on Goodreads. Eléonor d’Yvrée (1687) by Catherine Bernard was a highly-acclaimed novel in the seventeenth century, but I seem to be the only person on Goodreads who has read it.

Catherine Bernard wrote during the latter half of the century and was clearly influenced by Madame de La Fayette. But unlike La Fayette, Bernard was also a playwright. She was related to and trained by big names in the literary world, most notably Bernard de Fontenelle, who tried to take credit for Eléonor d’Yvrée. History likes to forget and downplay female accomplishments.

In Eléonor d’Yvrée, our eponymous heroine is raised by the countess of Tuscanelle because her father was defeated in a war against the English king. In shame, the marquis d’Yvrée abandoned his children and retired to a monastery. We only encounter the marquis once in the novel. From the monastery, he orders Eléonor to accept her brother’s caretaker’s marriage proposal!

Unfortunately, Eléonor is in love with the count of Misnie. The count’s mother goes to great lengths to prevent her son from marrying Eléonor because she thinks that Eléonor is beneath her son in status. The plot thickens when Mathilde, the countess of Tuscanelle’s daughter, realizes that she’s also in love with the count of Misnie. So, Eléonor and Mathilde are both in love with the same person, but only Mathilde is allowed to marry the count. The duchess of Misnie convinces the countess of Tuscanelle that Mathilde and the count of Misnie would make a great pair, and Eléonor remains hopelessly betrothed to the count of Rethelois (her brother’s guardian).

Mathilde tries to take charge of her destiny. She tells the count of Misnie that Eléonor has been unfaithful; she has willingly chosen someone else over him. Mathilde knows that she has lied about her friend, but she wants to destroy the passion between Eléonor and the count.

Eléonor, on the other hand, feels that it is her duty to marry the count of Rethelois. She has no choice but to obey her father’s wishes. When Mathilde admits to her selfishness, Eléonor encourages Mathilde to marry the count of Misnie. Indeed, she gives Mathilde to the count. The count, however, doesn’t love Mathilde back. He is devoted to Eléonor.

Eléonor may not be able to escape her duties, but Eléonor tries to be a master of her destiny. When she encourages her rival to marry her lover, she acts against her inclinations. She actively consents to a marriage that will make her miserable, but this act is one of freedom.

Mathilde also tries to be a master of her destiny, but in a different way. She lies to the count of Misnie about Eléonor’s character. For a moment, it seems like Mathilde will win. She is, after all, betrothed to the count. But the love isn’t mutual. There is no victory in marrying a person who doesn’t love you back. Eléonor is the strongest of the pair because she puts her friend’s interests above her own. Mathilde, on the other hand, tries to lie and cheat her way to love.

Eléonor begs the count of Misnie to stop seeing her. She no longer wants to be in contact with the count. The count attends Eléonor’s wedding, but Eléonor refuses to acknowledge his presence. The count of Misnie blames Mathilde for everything. “Are you pleased? Eléonor has married the count of Rethelois, you are now avenged.”

Mathilde catches a fever and dies during the night.

The End.