The story never ends: Rachid Mimouni’s Le Printemps n’en sera que plus beau and the production of counter-discourse in Algerian state-sponsored literature

Alexandra Gueydan-Turek
Yale University

In the process of post-colonial nation-building, the State often attempts to impose its own discourse as the sole source of national identity in order to homogenize the nation. In his influential work Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Benedict Anderson notes the discrepancy between ‘official’ discourse, which supports the conception of a unified State, and the reality of a diverse people artificially grouped within the same political entity. To account for their disparity, Anderson argues that the nation is primarily a discursive phenomenon, i.e. a fiction supported by narratives. Based on his concept of imagined communities, literary works come to light as essential tools for nation-building, and writers emerge as key figures called upon to embrace the official model of the nationalist narrative. A new nation’s literary production can rely on heavily codified structures of the novel to promote and preserve the fiction of a homogeneous national identity, defined here as an imagined community that shares the same collective values, a common understanding of History, and a profound commitment to the State. Such a propaganda-oriented mindset led Rachid Mimouni to challenge nationalist narrative in his first novel, Le printemps n’en sera que plus beau. This text, all too often disregarded as an early work that shows less aesthetic maturity than Mimouni’s later writing, merits further analysis as an initial attempt to challenge national narrative. In its closing lines, Mimouni contests not only the attempt to fix literary boundaries, but also the official discourse used in nationalist texts.

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Filed under Issue 1, Volume 1

2 responses to “The story never ends: Rachid Mimouni’s Le Printemps n’en sera que plus beau and the production of counter-discourse in Algerian state-sponsored literature

  1. Emile Chabal

    I very much enjoyed this piece, though I had no prior knowledge of Mimouni’s work. I think it is extremely important to demonstrate ways in which authors have been able to navigate the constraints imposed on them by post-colonial states.

    Reading about inconclusive endings also reminded me of Driss Chraibi’s wonderful Le Passé Simple where the main protagonist migrates to France at the end of the novel. That, too, might be considered a form of ‘subversion’, especially as it was written on the cusp of Moroccan independence. Perhaps there is a parallel between emigration and death – in this case the death of the two characters in Mamouni’s novel?

    Emile Chabal
    (PhD candidate in history, Cambridge University)

  2. John Robert Martin

    I am very glad that a friend directed me to this site: like Mr. Chabal, I’ve read none of Rachid Mimouni’s work, yet I found this essay engaging and persuasive.

    Your remarks on the novel’s adoption of the halqa form are especially fascinating. Hamid’s rejection of his tragic role allows both the character and his creator to escape from a pernicious cycle: Hamid has been forced to kill Djamila every night, just as the other writers whom you describe have been led to recycle the same ending again and again. Suddenly both cycles are disrupted by the appearance of the halqa–or, as you point out, the “circle”–which creates new intimacy and self-consciousness within the novel’s audience. There seems to me to be something peculiarly satisfying and suggestive about this rejection of one circle in favor of another.

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