Transmitting violence

The scarred body in Assia Djebar’s Femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement

Francosphères (2016), 5, (2), 151–166.


In the aftermath of the Algerian War of Independence, and in the late twentiethcentury context of growing fundamentalist violence in Algeria, Assia Djebar’s work interrogates the public and private roles of women and the ways in which their stories are transmitted. This article argues that in Femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement (1980), the scarred body acts as a palimpsest, representing past and present violences, demonstrating ways of transmitting trauma that reject both linear narrative and monolithic ideas of national memory. In close readings of two of the collection’s short stories that take the injured body as their focal narrative point, ‘Femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement’ and ‘La Femme qui pleure’, the article engages with trauma theory to examine the role of storytelling and language in the post-war context. Three main aspects of these short stories are discussed as locations of (potentially problematic) transmission between characters, and between writer and reader: a) the centrality of the injured body as a narrative starting point; b) the juxtaposition of private and public spaces and the gendering of those spaces; and c) the importance of touch and sexuality to the transmission of the traumatic experience. These aspects of Femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement create a post-war fictional mode that denies the possibility of a singular national/nationalist discourse around the survival of torture, and around involvement in the War of Independence more generally, in contemporary Algeria.


Author details

Vendetti, Maria