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Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  846 ratings  ·  75 reviews
In this stunning novel, Assia Djebar intertwines the history of her native Algeria with episodes from the life of a young girl in a story stretching from the French conquest in 1830 to the War of Liberation of the 1950s. The girl, growing up in the old Roman coastal town of Cherchel, sees her life in contrast to that of a neighboring French family, and yearns for more than ...more
Hardcover, 227 pages
Published July 20th 1996 by Quartet Books (UK) (first published 1985)
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Aug 15, 2007 rated it liked it
Assia Djebar wants you to write a term paper about her book. She wants you to deploy trendy crit theory terminology to unpack her overtly symbolic and extremely self-aware meta-narrative of historical readings, elided autobiography and tiresome, italicized hinge pieces. But she also wants you to learn about Algerian history, about life as an Arab woman and about the torturous process of forging an identity in the liminal space between a conquering and a conquered nation. Unfortunately, she has ...more
Jul 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: france, algeria
1830: France invades Algiers. 1962: Algeria gains independence. (1936: Assia Djebar is born. 1984: Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade is written.)

It's hard to call this a novel. It's not. I'd call it an essay, except at 284 pages that's stretching it. Orientalism aside, the quote on the front calling it a "mosaic" isn't far off. Djebar mixes her own autobiography with historical sources from the 19th century and discussions with women who remember the struggle for independence, and what came before
Feb 26, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Terence by: Elizabeth
Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade is not a novel, or a memoir or an oral history, though it shares characteristics with all three genres. It's a piece of literature that defies easy categorization. It is, perhaps, best described as a meditation on history (Algeria's in this case), alienation and women based on sources from both the French and native sides of Algeria's recent, tragic history, including the author's own experiences (she fought in the last rebellion that ended in Algeria's ...more
Roger Brunyate
My Body, my Land

Why am I reviewing this? Do I even understand it? No, not entirely, but I understand enough to know that it is a remarkable work, part philosophy, part personal statement, part a history of Algeria under French rule. Its very language a paradox: an Arab author writing in French, the language of the conquerors—but also the language that gives her freedom as a woman from the patriarchal oppression in her own land. And reading it in French as I did, I got an extraordinary sense of
This is a book about giving a voice to those who are silent. And to those who have been silenced. Many people’s stories weave in and out of one another, a tangle of emotion that eventually forms the tapestry of a nation’s soul. The stories center on Algeria – France’s initial occupation of Algeria in the 1830s and Algeria’s war for independence in the 1950s.

Most of the voices heard in this book are those of Algerian women. The author herself, older war widows, young brides, outspoken women held
Erin WV
Dec 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
My attempts to be more worldly with my reading sometimes lead to great discoveries, and sometimes they lead me here. Not that Assia Djebar is not a fine writer; her prose is lovely, if a bit joyless. I did not care for this book, however.

One thing I would have appreciated would have been Djebar establishing a stronger narrative through-line. There are many first-person narrators in this book, from all eras, and I couldn't keep them all clear. Is the one who played with her cousins in the opening

This book is committed to a monumental undertaking, which is why I rounded up rather than down. In addition, I was nearly as bewildered by this as I was by Women of Algiers in Their Apartment, which may be a result of this Fantasia having an element of relatable bildungsroman, or that it politically wore its heart on its sleeve, or that it was highly informative when it came to one portrait of one example of nineteenth century Euro colonizing of non-Euro soil. IN short, I'm glad that my
Bob Newman
A Rich Mosaic of Fragments

This is the first novel written by an Algerian, man or woman, that I have ever read. I suspect that could be true for many readers. As a new voice in my world of literature, then, it's an important book. I saw FANTASIA as a kaleidescope, though, always producing patterns and colors, always arranged, but not always understandable. I found it very hard to judge this work because it has many facets, like a shifted kaleidescope.

***** Five stars for the idea or conception of
Apr 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a really beautiful book. Assia Djebar, first and foremost, wants to speak honest words and heal past traumas.
"How shall I find the strength to tear off my veil unless I have to use it to bandage the running sore nearby from which words exude?"
She dissects Algerian identity, diaspora identity, how language feels for those who don't feel at home in the colonizer's language and their mother language, Algerian resistance, the quiet suffering of MENA matriarchs who bear their burdens
3 stars.

Read for my Women, Gender, and Sexuality in Middle Eastern History class, not going to review.
Jan 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Ethnically rich and inspiring in its descriptions, this 1985 collection of vignettes is an eye-opening look at a courageous North African country and people that have undergone an incredibly difficult history of colonization, war, and struggles against poverty, and oppression--of its women in particular. Assia Djebar is not easy to read in English translation much less in her original French. However, as I read the translation Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade (original title: L'Amour, La ...more
Erika Higbee
May 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The way Djebar grapples with her French/Algerian identity in this book shows itself through the form. Carefully crafted in all its parts - she plays with ways of historicizing and organizing information. One just has to remember that some of the narrative is, in the end, overwhelmingly in her perspective. Still a lovely way to humanize the experience of the French conquest of Algeria and the National Liberation movement.
Mar 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, francais, 2013

The book interspersed the history of the Algerian people in their fights against France, especially the 1830 invasion and the liberation war of the 1950s and 1960s, with personal vignettes of the author and other women who lived through these times. While it was often poetical and thoughtful, it was a tough book to read. Maybe if my French was as good as my English, I could have appreciated it more. Not just difficult French vocabulary but also Arabic and Berber vocabulary which weren't
Aug 08, 2012 rated it did not like it
A book that I can honestly say I hated, from the first page to the very last one. I started reading it in English (part of a series of books for a class on Arab Women Writers), and got suspicious about it while reading the apologetic preface: here we had a translator writing about the “brilliant” style, the “luminous” effects of language, and how the English translation doesn’t do justice to the original French, etc. In short, this indicated to me that the translation was either pretty bad, or ...more
Feb 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
The grande dame of Algerian literature is hailed as a Nobel Prize contender, and one of only four women and the first writer from the Maghreb to have been admitted to the prestigious Académie française. She has won many prizes, and Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade is one of her most famous novels for good reason; Djebar artfully addresses themes such as the written, formal language of French versus the oral traditions of Berber tribes, the colonized Algerians versus the French colonizers, self ...more
Apr 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This was a little hard to get into at first, but after taking my time with it and really looking at everything she was doing, it became an amazing masterpiece. Djebar interweaves stories from across cultures, genders and time in order to create a history of Algeria that focuses on being inclusive and understanding that good and bad are in everyone. It's beautifully written - I haven't come across an author who can write so poetically and brilliantly since I read Steinbeck years ago. The more I ...more
Mar 15, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Can be a bit confusing with the interweaving of time frames from past to more present. Algeria's colonization- and the fragmentation of its history, told from both oral stories and written reports from Algerians, french soldiers, and observers. An interesting piecing together of different views to create a sense of history and identity. Discusses the strength and importance of the role of women in this time of revolution and struggle.
Dec 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Read for Contemporary Postcolonial Literature.
There were passages of this book that completely blew my mind because they were so beautifully written. Exploring themes of women, violence, war, memory and writing, Djebar suggests what it means to tell a traumatic story, to create an archive and to listen to the experiences of everyday citizens.
The structure is interesting: personal memory counterpointed against epic history. However, I found myself far more attracted to the personal memory side of things, and that's certainly where Djebar's literary powers reside. I guess I still want to read more of what she's written, because I think there's a lot of promise here, so I think in the end I enjoyed it.
I quite loved this raising of women's voices that plays with the deeply collective nature of their experience. It acknowledges the strengths of an enforced world of women hidden away behind veils and walls, but also its high walls and limitations, examining the fractures in that world as women support the independence struggle, receive an education, travel to Paris. They are both joyful and devastating fractures. This narrative from multiple viewpoints in time and space struggles with an ...more
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is very well written and crushingly literary. Djebar is clearly brilliant. I will certainly need to revisit this text to get more out from it. Broadly, the text juxtaposes the violence of Algerian colonization, both physical and intellectual, with the violence of the harem.

A great deal of the text has to do with the tension between native and colonizers language, and what it means to be a person straddling both. Is all knowledge written in French, even if written by a post Colonial
Caterina Pierre
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had the privilege of reading this book as part of a Club de Lecture with 7 other students and a professional literature teacher. It’s a difficult book to read for a non-native French speaker because one might need a little background in French Colonial history to truly grasp the totality of the stories presented in it. While the book is a novel, it does not have a linear plot. Instead it is a compilation of vignettes, ranging from retelling of events during the French-Algerian War and the ...more
Oct 01, 2017 rated it liked it
This one came to me as a recommendation to follow Clarice Lispector's short stories. I wasn't sure what to expect when I ordered it from Amazon, and ended up with something that is quite hard to describe.

This follows a young Algerian woman in modern Paris/Algeria interspersed with stories built from primary source material from the French invasion of Algeria and Algerian war for independence. It is deeply political and concerned with identity of the woman who has been raised under French rule,
Alissa Machin
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Highly challenging; a love letter to Algeria and to the women of that country. A true palimpsest and (in)completely hybrid work. The cultural reference forcefield of L’Amour, la fantasia is operatic in scope.
A challenging, complex read, particularly the first half (set in the 1800s), due largely to the history and many names, places, and words that I was not familiar with.
Nicole G.
Dec 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015, 0-atw
Closer to 3.5 stars.

This is a difficult book to review. It is not a memoir or autobiography. It is not a history book. It is not fiction created from whole-cloth, either. Fantasia shares elements with all of these.

The book does not really have a plot, per se. The author gives us snippets from her childhood in Algeria, and the perception of women. This is interwoven with set-pieces from Algerian history, specifically, the French-Algerian War and Algeria's own war for independence.

Some of the
Samuel Diener
Feb 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intensely affective read
Scott Cox
Dorothy Blair’s excellent introduction to Algerian author Assia Djebar’s “Fantasia” provides the following background regarding the title: “The Fantasia (derived from the Arabic fantaziya [meaning ostentation]), is in North Africa a set of virtuoso movements on horseback executed at a gallop, accompanied by loud cries and culminating in rifle shots; the Fantasia, associated with ceremonial occasions and military triumphs . . .” This novel can be characterized as autobiography, history (Algerian ...more
Charles Wester
Feb 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014
Such a rich text but entirely too academic-ish for me. I understand the need to abrogate and appropriate imperial structures but wonder if it can be less painful. I value so many fragments of this book: the intimate moments of linguistic alienation, the allegorical rape that is colonization, the transferring of the oral accounts of the Algerian females into text -- all were moments which provoked deep introspection and de-centered my perspective.
Unfortunately the more far-reaching elements of
Apr 16, 2007 rated it really liked it
apparently a fantasia is a military manuever of the opposing sides taking turns being on the offensive and the defensive, making a back and forth sort of motion. if you look at the table of contents for this book, the actual structure of the novel takes that form as well--in and out, indented and not (brilliant!).

using a mix of first person memoir, written-down oral accounts from algerian women, and actual military accounts, djebar tells the history of the algerian-french conflict in way that
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(the pen name of Fatma-Zohra Imalhayene)
أسيا جبار
Assia Djebar was born in Algeria to parents from the Berkani tribe of Dahra. She adopted the pen name Assia Djebar when her first novel, La Soif (Hunger) was published in 1957, in France where she was studying at the Sorbonne.

In 1958, she travelled to Tunis, where she worked as a reporter alongside Frantz Fanon, travelling to Algerian refugee
“How shall I find the strength to tear off my veil unless I have to use it to bandage the running sore nearby from which words exude?” 0 likes
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