Autobiography

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Extra info for Autobiography and independence : selfhood and creativity in North African postcolonial writing in French

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For Islam there is no primacy of the individual in the sense of something detached from every link with mankind; and the indi- Auto & Ind pages rev again 1/2/05 4:27 PM Page 31 Life/Writing in the Colonial and Postcolonial Contexts 31 vidual’s first link with mankind is the link with the family. ) While there certainly is generally, though not universally, a different emphasis on the relationship between individual and family in Western society, it is not the case that the notion of the individual is devoid of any link between the self and the rest of humanity in whatever form this may take, nor are the links between the individual and those around him or her, particularly links in the form of family relationships, denied or not valued.

Above all, it is a view that privileges a Western conception of the individual and his (and I stress ‘his’) place in the world. I previously quoted Jean Déjeux and noted the assumptions that he makes. He does not specify how long the ‘long time’ actually is that autobiography has been an integral part of Western literature and the Western worldview. In fact, the history of autobiography as we think of it at the beginning of the twenty-first century dates back only to the second half of the nineteenth century.

31 Philipp is also careful to point out that it is doubtful whether a history of autobiography in modern Arabic literature can be written, since the question of influence between the texts from the Middle East that he analyses and the production of autobiographical discourses in the Maghreb is problematic, and indeed highly questionable, as Bounfour has pointed out. 32 I shall return to this question of how a text ‘ceases to be an expression of collective norms and becomes a personal work’. The issue of alienation from traditional backgrounds is also certainly an element in the work of all the writers discussed here, as I indicated briefly in the introduction.

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