Amrouche, Marie-Louise (1913–1976)

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Amrouche, Marie-Louise (1913–1976)

Algerian folklorist and first Algerian woman to publish a novel, who brought her mother's work to publication as well. Name variations: Taos Amrouche; Marguerite Taos Bourdil. Born Marie-Louise Taos Amrouche in 1913 in Tunisia, Algeria; died in 1976 in France; daughter of Fadhma Mansour Amrouche (an author) and Belkacem-ou-Amrouche; sister of Jean Amrouche (a poet).

Selected works:

Jacinthe noir (Black Hyacinth, 1947); Rue des Tambourins (1960); Le grain magique (The Magic Grain, 1966); L'Amant imaginaire (The Imaginary Lover, 1975); and three recorded interpretations of Berber folk songs.

In the then French-occupied nation of Algeria, Marie-Louise Amrouche was born into a life suspended between two worlds. In her native Berber culture, she was given the name Taos by her parents, both native Algerians. But her family converted to Christianity, and under Christian French rule she also bore the name Marie-Louise. The dichotomies of religion and national alliance left her feeling as though she had no home—a common feeling among women in colonial-occupied countries.

Amrouche, who lived in Tunisia, rose to fame around 1937 with her translation and performance of traditional Berber (Kabylia) songs in French. Despite this attempt to connect the two cultures, she still felt at odds in Algeria. In 1945, she moved to France and assumed French nationality. While there, she wrote and published Jacinthe noir (Black Hyacinth), the first novel released by an Algerian woman. (Subjugated in their native land, Algerian women have been denied many opportunities.) Amrouche's brother, poet Jean Amrouche, is credited with helping his sister find peace with the diverse cultures influencing her. Written in native Kabylia and translated to French, Le grain magique (The Magic Grain) was published in 1966; its poems and songs explored Amrouche's resolution with her French and Algerian influences.

The year 1967 brought the death of Amrouche's mother, Fadhma Mansour Amrouche . One year later, despite her father's objections, Amrouche saw to it that her mother's autobiography, The Story of My Life, was published. In her later years, Amrouche was instrumental in the creation of a chair of Berber literature and sociology at the University of Algeria. She died in 1976 in France, where she had lived for 31 years.

Crista Martin , Boston, Massachusetts