Identity and Identification in Azouz Begag’s Le Gone du Chaâba and Béni ou le paradis privé
"Man is human only to the extent to which he tries to impose his existence on another man in order to be recognised by him [...] It is on that other being, on recognition by that other being, that his own human worth and reality depend." (Fanon 216-17)
The dependence of one’s “human worth and reality” on mutual recognition, highlighted by Frantz Fanon in his seminal text Black Skin White Masks, first published in 1952, plays a central role in the construction of identity in Azouz Begag’s first two novels, Le Gone du Chaâba and Béni ou le paradis privé, published in 1986 and 1989 respectively. Using contemporary post-colonial criticism to carry out a close reading of these two texts, this article will take into account the memory of the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962), which marked Algeria’s independence from French colonial rule, and its connection to France’s current attitude towards ethnic difference. Subsequently, the effect of these factors on considerations of contemporary Franco-Algerian selfhood will be examined, and the analysis will go on to demonstrate how an Algerian presence in France, forty-eight years after the end of the Algerian War, continues to come into conflict with the French Republic’s constitutional definition of nationhood, which favours unity of the nation by uniformity rather than an embracing of multiple identities.
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