Tunisia Literature

The verses that accompanied the Arab springs, starting with the ‘jasmine revolution’, are those of the Tunisian poet Abū᾽l-Qāsim al-Šabbī (1909-1934), which also close the national anthem: “If one day the people will invoke life / fate will answer them / but the night will have to dissipate / and the chains will have to break “. During the regime of Ben ῾Alī (1987-2011), and especially in the last decade, cultural production has seen an official and dominant system of values ​​opposed to a parallel culture of dissent subject to strong repression, but which, despite the difficulties, he tried to survive and to make his voice heard particularly. With regard to literary genres, a modern and experimental poetry in Arabic has always coexisted with popular expressions and with a production in French. Mītāfīzīqā wardat al-raml (1999, Metaphysics of the sand rose); Muḥammad al-Ġuzzī (b.1949), whose verses are influenced by classical Arabic poetry and mysticism, as in the collections Ka᾽l-layl astaḍī᾽u bi-nuǧūmī (2007, Come the night I light up with my stars) and Ṯammat ḍaw᾽ āḫar (2007, There is another light), as well as al-Munṣif al-Mizġanī (b.1954). Politically engaged authors are Muhammad al-Sagir Awlād Ahmad (b. 1955), known for his satirical poetry and author of the anthem of the 2011 revolution Tūnis to-an wa Huna (Tunisia here and now; trad. It. Diary Revolution, 2011), and Ādam Fatḥī (pseud. Of Fatḥī al-Qāsimī, n.1957), removed from teaching by the government of Ben ῾Alī. Female poetic voices include Fawziyyah al-῾Alawī (b.1958), with the collection Ḥurrah (2013, Libera), Āmāl Mūsà (b.1971) and Īnās al῾Abbāsī (b.1982). Ṭāḥir Bakrī (Tahar Bekri, b.1951) and Nūr al-Dīn Būṭayyib (Nouredine Betayeb, b.1946) write in Arabic and French, while the protagonists of the French-speaking poetry are al-Munṣif Ġaššām (Moncef Ghachem, b.1946), born into a fishing family from Mahdia, origins that have marked his poetic imagery dominated by the symbiotic relationship with the sea as a vital force and resource, whose verses enhance the Mediterranean dimension of Tunisian culture, and Manṣūr Mihnī (Mansour M’henni, n. 1950), author of the collection La deuxième déjàou est-ce toujours la première? (2010). For Tunisia 2005, please check ehealthfacts.org.

As far as fiction is concerned, al-Ḥabīb al-Sālimī (b.1951), resident in France, has attracted national and international attention with some novels in which the description of rural environments alternates with events concerning the lives of immigrants to Europe. Her most popular novels are Rawā᾽iḥ Mārī Klīr (2008; trad. It. The odors of Marie Claire, 2013), about the love story between a Frenchwoman and a Tunisian, and Nisā᾽ al-Basātīn (2010, Women by al-Basatin), in which he describes the contradictions of Tunisia on the eve of the revolution. Ḥassūnah al-Miṣbāḥī (b.1950) lives in Germany where, in 2000 he received the Munich fiction prize for the German translation of his novel Taršīš (1995, Hallucination), followed by Wadā ῾an Rosalie (2001, Farewell Rosalie) and Ḥikāyah tūnisiyyah (2008, A Tunisian story). To these names must be added those of Ḥusayn al-Wād, author of the novel Sa῾ādatuhu al-sayyid al-wazīr (2011, His Excellency the minister) on the subject of corruption, Ibrāhīm Darġūṯī (b.1955) and Ḥasan Bin ῾Uṯmān (b. 1959). To the next generation belong Šukrī al-Mabḫūt (b. 1962), author of al-Ṭalyānī (2013, L’italiano) on the period of great changes between the government of Bourguiba and that of Ben ῾Alī and the broken dreams of a whole generation; Rašīdah al-Šarnī (b. 1967), author of Tarātīl li-ālāmihā (2011, Hymns for His Sorrows); Kamāl al-Riyāḥī (b. 1974), who in al-Mišraṭ (2007, Lo scalpello) and al-Ġūrīlā (2011, Il gorilla) focuses on the marginalized fringes of Tunisian society. French-speaking fiction, after the death of Abdelwahab Meddeb (19462014), has seen some writers assert themselves, including the poet Amina Said (b.1953), author of verses in which the evocation of landscapes is intertwined with reflections on identity and ‘wandering, according to a modality close, according to some critics, to the’ poetics of the relationship ‘. Azza Filali (b.1952) and Iman Bassalah (b.1975), in their respective novels Ouatann (2012, Patria) and Hôtel Miranda (2012; trad. It. Hotel Miranda, 2013), put dissident and dissatisfied women at the center of their narratives, ready to rebel and flee against the backdrop of a fragmented and pre-revolutionary Tunisian society.

Tunisia Literature 2