Algerian novelist/filmmaker Assia Djebar is considered one of the most influential novelists in North Africa, best known for her feminist, anti-patriarchal and anti-colonial perspective.
“Children of the New World”, originally published in 1962 in French, tells the story of the highly intersected lives of multiple characters in a small Algerian mountain town during the Algerian Revolution against France in the 1950s and the psychological and emotional impact this conflict has on each of them. The narrative shifts perspective between the 9 different characters and sees the events taking place from very differing points of view. Djebar simply presents it, she does not judge, although the author’s point of view becomes obvious between the lines and most especially via the feminist perspective of life during wartime.
Although most of the residents of the town are considered “Arabs”, there is, in actuality, an ethnic mix, which Djebar illustrates and examines via the interaction between the secondary characters in the town square, in which much of the character’s interactions takes place. The mix of ethnic and class origins are on display for the reader, a complex interaction which goes way beyond the typical Western view of “Us vs. Them”. The Other becomes “The Other” as well and sometimes these interactions are rife with tension.
Ultimately, Algeria would attain its independence in the very year this novel was originally published and Djebar seems to predict that one day her country would gain that independence and her characters, and their descendants, would one day become what the title suggests.
Definitely recommended, especially for those interested in the history of the post-war era Maghreb.