Born in , Leila Abouzeid was only six years old when Morocco achieved national independence. Year of the Elephant is largely an auto-biographical novel. The novel opens with the return of Zahra, the narrator and central character, to her hometown after a divorce that has left her destitute and without realistic legal options: He had simply sat down and said, "Your papers will be sent to you along with whatever the law provides. How worthless a woman is if she can be returned with a paper receipt like some store-bought object!
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Born in , Leila Abouzeid was only six years old when Morocco achieved national independence. Year of the Elephant is largely an auto-biographical novel.
The novel opens with the return of Zahra, the narrator and central character, to her hometown after a divorce that has left her destitute and without realistic legal options: He had simply sat down and said, "Your papers will be sent to you along with whatever the law provides.
How worthless a woman is if she can be returned with a paper receipt like some store-bought object! How utterly worthless! Zahra recalls the major events of her life from childhood and marriage through to the subsequent eras of nationalist struggle, independence and decolonization.
Language The French language came to the Maghrib the region of North West Africa that encompasses Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia with French colonization, which began with the occupation of Algiers in The subsequent conquest of Algeria by the French was bloody and brutal, and was described by Karl Marx in terms that betray the same eurocentric assumptions that he expressed regarding the British colonization of India: The struggle of the Bedouins was a hopeless one, and although the manner in which brutal soldiers like Bugeaud have carried on the war is highly blameworthy, the conquest of Algeria is an important and fortunate fact for the progress of civilisation.
In a recent interview, Abouzeid pointed out that few Moroccan writers use French today, and argued that the current interest in francophone writing in the West is largely the result of various prizes, sponsorships and publication deals afforded by the French in defence of "francophonie" in their former colonies.
Leila Abouzeid chose to write in Arabic as the language of her religious faith and of her country. Her views on the use of the French language in the Moroccan context are clear: I loathed this language. That I now know was a divine grace that has protected me from writing in a foreign language that came to me with an army behind it.
It is a natural attitude toward the language of people who had usurped my country, put my father in their prisons and practised on him every means of torture. Thematic Parallels Two major themes of postcolonial literatures, described in The Empire Writes Back as "the celebration of the struggle towards independence in community and individual" and "the dominating influence of a foreign culture on the life of contemporary postcolonial society," are prominent in Year of the Elephant.
The turning point, and the event that also caused thousands of other ordinary Moroccans to join the nationalist resistance, was the Casablanca Massacre in which several hundred innocent civilians were murdered in the street by the French Foreign Legion.
Soon, she is involved in all manner of activities, including the distribution of literature, collection of funds, organisation of strikes and the smuggling of arms. As is the case in the autobiographical novels of Palestinian women such as Raymonda Hawa Tawil, Leila Khaled and Liana Badr, the participation by Zahra and her friends in active resistance against colonialist occupation and oppression is instrumental in challenging and redefining traditional gender roles.
They suggest a redefinition of the conceptual apparatus, whether Marxism or feminism, deployed in locating and orienting the question of "women" in specific contexts. In these autobiographical texts, context assumes a vital significance. She is not a Western woman, but a Moroccan woman, a Muslim woman who finds comfort in her religious faith.
The novel does not make an ideological statement, but rather presents in fictional form the real life situation of a real woman, the data that all ideologies must take into account. Morocco finally achieved independence after 44 years of direct French colonial rule in November , and Zahra describes the collective joy of the event, in which the entire nation seemed to be swept up, as an enormous celebration: The whole of Casablanca became one huge celebration connected by stages and loudspeakers.
Songs and performances mingled with speeches, and the aroma of tea being prepared on sidewalks filled the air. But as Webb adds, this initial joy and optimism was not to last long: "The immediate Independence period, then, was a time of great jubilation.
In only what seems to be a paradox, it was almost inevitably also the beginning of disillusionment. Safia had helped herself to some of the donations, I told him. He replied with a cryptic question. In fact, the progress made in the status of women during the struggle for independence seemed to have been lost.
Zahra describes how her husband has adopted the attitudes of the former colonizers: These days my husband needs a wife who will offer cigarettes to his guests and help pave the road to the top for him by any means necessary. He once found me sitting in the sun with the servants. He glared with that look that said he would shoot me had he a gun in his hand. He ate with a fork and I with my fingers. The sound of his fork hitting the plate stopped and I looked up.
We fought colonialism in their name and now you think like the colonizers! Islam It is stated in The Empire Writes Back that postcolonial literature involves a "radical dismantling of European codes and a postcolonial subversion and appropriation of the dominant European discourses. In a series of dialogues between Zahra and the village "sheikh" that occur throughout Year of the Elephant, Abouzeid challenges European discourse on Islam by choosing to portray the sheikh as a warm, helpful and genuinely spiritual person rather than as a stereotypically authoritarian and misogynist figure.
The sheikh, like the text of Year of the Elephant itself, stands in sharp contrast to the lurid images of "mad ayatollahs" and "fanatical fundamentalists" all too common in the Western media and Western academic discourse alike.
In many other references throughout the text, Abouzeid reinforces an essentially positive image of Islam as a force for social justice and liberation. It is of course unlikely that she set out to challenge negative Western stereotypes about Islam when she wrote Year of the Elephant, as the novel was written in Arabic for an Arab-Islamic readership who do not share Western prejudices and misconceptions regarding Islamic religion and culture.
Once translated into English, however, the text presents an immediate challenge to Western discourse on Islam, opening the question of the role and value of translation within the field of postcolonial literature.
It is also highly significant that Zahra does not attribute the economic and social difficulties brought on by divorce to the Islamic religion, which many Western feminist texts would almost certainly do. At most, Zahra is critical of the way men may use an institutionalized Islamic-based legal system in their own interests, but for Zahra this is very much a temporal, human failing that does not detract in any way from the essential message of justice and equity that she finds in Islam.
Conclusion Finally, is Year of the Elephant a postcolonial text? Studies such as The Empire Writes Back tend to suggest that the use of a European language, suitably "abrogated" and "appropriated," is an essential characteristic of postcolonial literature.
With the exception of the linguistic questions raised by the use of a European language, Year of the Elephant can be considered a postcolonial text in most other senses, and stands as a clear example of the need for postcolonial theory to broaden its horizons and seriously investigate postcolonial literatures in languages other than those of Europe.
In particular, modern Arabic literature is a subject of great potential interest to researchers in this field, as it represents a unique example of postcolonial syncretism in which adopted European literary theories and genres have been combined with older Classical Arabic models to create a vigorous new literature which, despite years of European colonization, has never ceased to employ the Arabic language as its medium.
As Leila Abouzeid demonstrates with Year of the Elephant, the colonialist experience actually served to strengthen the position of Arabic as a literary language, as it became a central focus for resistance to imperialism on both the political and the cultural levels. Martin Shaw London: Macmillan, Alan Sheridan London: Quartet
Taunos To Leila, the use of the French language is being submissive to invaders that are not even present anymore. It is elepyant religion, as a Muslim Moroccan woman, that gives her the fortitude to forge her way as a woman in elephwnt Morocco. Her book was translated into French only in It is very well written translated, is the more appropriate term. The story of the battle is that during an early religious based battle, a flock of birds came and dropped stones on the enemy elephants, causing them to turn around. Maybe this would have had more of an impact on me if I could have read it in its native Arab language. The title of the work itself is an ahouzeid to the holy year in Islam when a battle was won against elephants by a flock of birds that bombarded an army of elephants with stones from the sky.
Year of the Elephant: A Moroccan Woman's Journey Toward Independence
Almost every radio broadcast was done in French because the radio was a business, and French was used in business. As part of her program, she translated movie scripts into Arabic and did dramatic readings. One of these was the famous autobiography of Malcolm X. She translated this script into Arabic and read it theatrically over the air. File Name: the year of the elephant leila abouzeid pdf. Learn more.