Metaphors of Invention and Dissension explores the relationship between aesthetics and politics in the postcolonial Algerian novel, examining six novels written by two Algerian authors of French expression, Tahar Djaout and Rachid Mimouni. Rajeshwari S. Vallury argues that postcolonial literature demonstrates a conscious, rational, and deliberate engagement with the question of democracy. The author shows how the metaphors of literature invent an arena or platform for the enactment of democratic dissension.
Postcolonial texts stage contentious debates about the principles that can and must sustain a life of the common. The capacity of the poetic word to regenerate and recreate forms of thinking, being, saying, and doing lies at the heart of the political power of literature. In the case of Algeria, the dual forces of military rule and radical Islamism have not succeeded in stifling the revolutionary will of the people, which continues to find self-expression in the idea of the nation, the concept of universal human rights, the notion of civility, and the philosophical traditions of pluralism and toleration within Islam. This book argues that postcolonial literature attests to the dissonance of democracy by staging the nation as the space of a universal equality and civility.
Introduction: Dissonant Algeria / Part I: Thinking Politics and Aesthetics / 1. Democracy, Citizenship, and Postcolonial Politics / 2. Metaphor, Or, the Folding Thread between Aesthetics and Politics / 3. The Potentiality of the Utopic Imaginary in Postcolonial Fiction / Part II: Reading Aesthetics and Politics / 4. Walking the Tightrope between Memory and History: Metaphor in Tahar Djaout’s L’invention du desert / 5. The Dreams of the Just: Allegorizing the Community of Brotherhood in Tahar Djaout’s Les vigiles and Le dernier été de la raison / 6. Paradises Lost, But Not Regained: The Politics of Utopia and Dystopia in Rachid Mimouni’s Le fleuve détourné and La malédiction / 7. The Novel Secularism of Rachid Mimouni’s L’honneur de la tribu / Conclusion: “For God’s Sake, Open the Universal a Little More!” / Index
Vallury offers an engaging study of works by authors Rachid Mimouni and Tahar Djaout. She effectively demonstrates that these writers of French expression use allegory and metaphor to recast the Algerian nation as a utopic space that allows for democratic dissension and political subversion. She defines literary metaphors as sources of poetic valence that enable debates in political justice and equality. These debates continue to be relevant in the contentious sociopolitical arenas of present-day Algeria.
Rajeshwari S. Vallury is Professor of French at the University of New Mexico. She is the author of ‘Surfacing’ the Politics of Desire: Literature, Feminism, and Myth (2008), and the editor of Filiations: Theory, Aesthetics, and Politics in the Francophone World (forthcoming).