Assia Djebar was born in Cherchell, Algeria, in 1936, and is one of the world's most renowned Maghreb writers.
Djebar studied first in Algeria and later in France, where she was the first Algerian woman to be accepted at the Ecole Normale Supérieure. A fervid supporter of female emancipation in the Islamic world, after taking part in Algeria's Liberation Movement, she taught in several countries. She won widespread acclaim as a French-language narrative writer, describing the many aspects of her native country: this was a choice that brought her into a constant love/hate relationship with her country of origin.
Her first book, La Soif (1957), which like all her works was written in French, led to accusations of anti-patriotism after Algeria gained independence; this work was followed by Les Impatients (1958) and Les enfants du noveau monde (1962), both focusing on war, national independence and the relationship between liberation and a patriarchal existence.
The theme of female rebellion against male domination in society is explored in greater detail in Les Alouettes Naìves (1967). Apart from her works of fiction, Djebar wrote poetry, essays and plays, also directing a number of films and documentaries.
Her film La Nouba des femmes du Mont Chenoua won a prize at the Venice Film Festival (1979), after which she returned to fiction with Les femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement (Women of Algiers in Their Apartment), L’amour, la fantasia (Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade) (1985), Ombre Sultane (A Sister to Scheherazade) (1987), Loin de Mèdine (Far from Medina) (1991) and Vaste est la prison (So Vast the Prison: A Novel) (1995).
Djebar was awarded the Neustadt International Prize for her contribution to world literature in 1996, then the Yourcenar Prize in 1997 and, at the Frankfurt Literary Fair, the Friedenpreis des Deutschen Buchhandels (the prestigious Peace Prize of the German Book Trade).
Since 1997 she has been Professor at the Louisiana State University, where she is also Director of the French and Francophone Studies Department.
She is currently a professor of French language and literature at New York University.
In Italy, she won critical acclaim for her Donne d’Algeri nei loro appartamenti (Women of Algiers in Their Apartment) (1988), Lontano da Medina (Far from Medina) (1991), L’amore, la guerra (Love and War) (1995) and Bianco d’Algeria (Algerian White) (1996). 1997 saw the publication of a collection of interviews under the title Anchoring the Wounded Heart: Renate Siebert Interviews Assia Djebar.
In October 2000, her musical drama Figlie di Ismaele nel vento e nella tempesta (Daughters of Ishmael, through wind and storm), directed by Gigi Dall’Aglio, inaugurated the season at the Teatro di Roma (a world première).
2004 saw the publication of Queste voci che mi assediano, which Djebar presented to the public as part of “Dedica 2004”.