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Mohammed Dib was an Algerian poet and novelist. Born in Tlemcen, Dib held various jobs as a teacher, accountant, weaver and rug designer, interpreter, and journalist before turning to full-time writing. In 1959 he moved to France, where he has continued to reside, although he returns regularly to Algeria.
With the death of Kateb Yacine in 1989, Dib became the undisputed doyen of Algerian literature. He was not only one of the first Maghrebian francophone authors of the post-World War II renaissance, publishing poems as early as 1947, but also continued to be both prolific and innovative. Unlike some of his contemporaries, Dib has constantly sought to renew and revitalize his writing. Besides being Algeria's foremost living novelist, he is a major poet.
Dib was, with Feraoun, Mammeri, and Kateb, a member of the ‘Generation of 52’, so dubbed because of the appearance in 1952 of important first novels by Dib (La Grande Maison) and Mammeri (La Colline oubliée) and sometimes renamed the ‘Generation of 54’ to refer to the major political event of modern Algerian history, the outbreak of the war of independence.
La Grande Maison, the first volume of a loosely knit trilogy (L'Algérie), is a naturalistic description of life in the streets and housing projects where the poor live. In this work the main characters are, in Zolaesque fashion, subordinate to the looming allegorical presence of Hunger. The remaining volumes (L'Incendie, 1954; Le Métier à tisser, 1957) continue to reflect Dib's left-wing social and political commitments during the 1940s and 1950s. His early novels have been widely read in Algeria and have been introduced into the school and university curricula.
Dib's work took a dramatic turn in the early 1960s when he forsook the naturalistic, ‘ethnographic’ novel for a more interiorized and oneiric discourse. His best known novel, Qui se souvient de la mer (1962), ostensibly deals with the Algerian War, but is particularly remarkable for its many-layered, surreal, and futuristic imagery. In a liminary note, Dib acknowledges the importance to his creative vision of Picasso's Guernica and science fiction, but we also find evidence of the influence of Freud and Jung in the subterranean and oceanic worlds where the action unfolds as well as in the mythic portrayal of the woman and the mother.
Dib also published, at this time, the first of a series of brilliant collections of poetry. Ombre gardienne (1961), although highly rarefied, provides an early link to the novels, for several of the texts in the collection first appeared as songs inserted into the trilogy. If the prose has evolved over the years, the poetry has, on the contrary, remained fairly consistent in style, perhaps because, as Dib once remarked, he is unable to practise spontaneous automatic writing in writing his novels—even when the result seems oneiric—whereas he often uses such procedures in composing the poems.
Dib's many novels may be divided roughly into four groups: the early naturalistic trilogy; the interiorized psychological, oneiric novels, usually set in Algeria (Qui se souvient de la mer; Cours sur la rive sauvage, 1964; La Danse du roi, 1968; Habel, 1977); the two novels of an unfinished trilogy about Algeria during the years of crisis in the early 1970s (Dieu en Barbarie, 1970; Le Maître de chasse, 1973); and the ‘nordic novels’ set in Algeria, Finland, and France (Les Terrasses d'Orsol, 1985; Le Sommeil d'Ève, 1989; Neiges de marbre, 1990). Some works defy easy classification, however, being transitional, such as some of the early short stories in Au café (1955) and Le Talisman (1966) and the at-once realistic and psychological Un été africain (1959), in which the identity quest of a young girl unfolds before the muted sounds and imagery of the Algerian War.
Dib's poems in Formulaires (1970), Omneros (1975), Feu beau feu (1979), and Ô vive (1987) are hermetic and derive much of their power from their linguistic virtue.
Source: Goodreads; http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/278349.Mohammed_Dib
Guardian Shadow 1
Close your doors
women, bitter sleep
will fill your nerves,
water and sand wore
away the trace of your step,
nothing belongs to you.Far away the few
glimmerings of stars,
opaque, the earth around
the black dwellings
shelter your respite.Close your doors
I am the guardian:
nothing belongs to you.
Guardian Shadow 2
But I’ll barely sing
so that your pain not
impinge on your sleep;
Peace to you, mothers, wives,
the blood-drinking tyrant
will be dust in your
winnowing baskets.I walk on the mountain
where approaching spring
puts scented herbs:All of you who listen to me,
when dawn softens, I’ll
come and wash your thresholds.And my songs will stifle