Date of this Version
20th & 21st Century French and Francophone Studies International Colloquium, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, March 26-28, 2020. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/ffsc2020/
Mohammed Dib, in his Algerian trilogy, demonstrates the effects of expropriation and mendicancy on the patterns of migration of agricultural laborers, illustrating the historical context of colonial Algeria through the act of storytelling. Mohammed Dib in 1949 devised the idea to write “un roman aux proportions assez vastes qui devait présenter une sorte de portrait divers de l’Algérie” (Déjeux 145) which would later become what constitutes the Algerian trilogy consisting of La Grande maison published in 1952, L’Incendie in 1954, and finally Le Métier à tisser in 1957. The trilogy tells the story of Omar’s upbringing in colonial Algeria surrounded by inevitable suffering and war as the veil shielding him from the reality of life falls from before his eyes. The trilogy begins with Omar as a ten-year-old boy living in Dar-Sbitar, a run-down hospital that has now become the residence for the poor of Tlemcen and referred to as la grande maison, with his mother and two sisters. His mother desperately and tirelessly works to provide food for her children but often comes up empty-handed. Dib’s opening novel displays the harsh conditions of not only the adults in this Manichaean world but of the children as well. The following book, L’incendie, continues Omar’s narration as he travels to Bni Boublen, a village in the Algerian countryside, with Zhor, a neighbor from Dar-Sbitar. In Bni Boublen, Omar, as an observer and witness, describes the horrible conditions of the fellahs who have become dispossessed of their lands and have become a resource of cheap labor for the Europeans. He also becomes a witness to the prise de conscience of the fellahs in which emotions run high and result in not only a strike, but also an incendie, which symbolizes the fellahs’ fervor and, thus, cannot be extinguished. The final novel of the trilogy, Le métier à tisser, continues to follow the story of Omar, who is now fourteen years old and has left school and become an apprentice weaver. This novel demonstrates that the prise de conscience that had occurred in the countryside likewise has taken place back in the urban centers of Tlemcen.