Thursday, 19 August 2010

Obituary for Tahar Wattar, from Associated Press

Tahar Wattar, a Writer in Arabic of Algerian Novels, Dies at 74


ALGIERS (AP) — Tahar Wattar, one of Algeria’s leading Arab-language writers, who used his novels to explore his nation’s struggle for independence from France and its postcolonial history, died Thursday. He was 74.

The death was reported by the official news agency APS. A noted writer and friend, Wassini Laaredj, told The Associated Press that Mr. Wattar had died after a “long illness.” He had been hospitalized for cancer treatment on various occasions in Paris.

Mr. Wattar was known for his adversarial position toward Algeria’s French-language authors, whom he once denounced as “vestiges of colonialism.” The Arabic language, along with the Islamic faith, was a crucial component in Algeria’s forging an identity as an independent nation after a bloody war ended more than 130 years of French rule in 1962. Mr. Wattar revisited Algeria’s postcolonial history, sometimes using symbolism and allegory, in novels like “Al Laz” (1974), “A Mule’s Wedding” (1978) and “The Fisherman and the Palace” (1980).

While he appeared to support the nationalist movement and had the blessing of Algeria’s one-party government, Mr. Wattar subtly evoked the downside, contrasting the idealism of the movement with the disappointments that reality delivered.

Mr. Wattar also wrote plays as well as short stories like “The Martyrs Are Coming Back This Week” and “Smoke From My Heart.” In 1996 he founded a magazine dedicated to short stories.

Mr. Wattar was born in Sedratta, in the eastern region of Batna. His first story was published in 1956, in neighboring Tunisia, but he turned to journalism before becoming a novelist. He founded weekly newspapers in the eastern city of Constantine and in Algiers in 1963.

He presided over the Al Djahizia cultural association, which awards annual prizes to young writers and poets in the Arab world.

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