Nina Bouraoui

Biography

Nina Bouraoui was born Yasmina Bouraoui on 31 July 1967 in Rennes to an Algerian father and a French mother. She spent most of her childhood in Algeria, moving back to Brittany in 1980. Bouraoui later lived in Zurich and Abu Dhabi before returning to France to attend university in Paris, where she is now resident.

Bouraoui published her first text, La Voyeuse interdite, in 1991 and has since published eleven further texts with Gallimard, Fayard and Stock. Her texts are largely auto-fictional accounts written in the first-person, and follow an interminable rhythm of surges and leaps through short phrasing, repetition and anaphora, producing the effect of breathless urgency. The emphasis on the ‘je’ is ubiquitous in her writing, disclosing subjectivity to be key and, amongst Bouraoui’s principal concerns, is the mediation of the textual, sexual self.

Her first text, La Voyeuse interdite, presents challenging and often controversial images of the role of femininity in Algerian Islamic culture: a young girl, Fikria, narrates her experience of being stifled by the confining elements of her culture and seeks to transform her passive suffering and subjection to the male gaze into a reactive, performative, visionary pain, by appropriating and self-inflicting physical violence, as well as effecting a creative transformation of specular logic. The resulting acts of self-destruction that she and her sister endure (self-harm, anorexia) reveal Bouraoui’s fascination with the paradoxical presence of death and destruction in the formation and negotiation of subjectivity. Indeed, the texts that followed through the 1990s – Poing mort, Le Bal des murènes and L’Âge blessé – further develop the idea of the ghostliness of corporeal identity, in their different explorations of how melancholia, illness and death cloak embodied subjectivity.

Childhood is a recurrent theme in Bouraoui’s work and it is a space that is intimately connected to wildness and sensuality. As she has admitted in an interview, ‘J’ai toujours été fascinée par la jeunesse et sa sensualité. C’est un état sauvage où on a l’impression que la sexualité va définir notre personnalité’ (Lucie Geffroy: ‘Quand Nina Bouraoui parle des hommes’ [Magazine 360?, 11 June 2007]). Childhood is also closely associated with territory in these auto-fictional texts. ‘L’enfance est un pays aussi’ (‘Entretien’ [Delirium]), Bouraoui has claimed, and the focus of her next publication, Le Jour du séisme, is the childhood landscape of Algeria. The text starts and jolts with rhythmic uncertainty and territorial instability, as linguistic fragmentation and repetition link the fluctuations of subjectivity to the trembling of the earth ravaged by war and violence. Garçon manqué continues the theme of childhood, territorial violence and displacement, and their consequent embodiment in the subject. In this work, national identity and gendered identity are explicitly juxtaposed alongside one another as the narrator struggles to align herself to the binary cultural markers that seek to code her: French, Algerian, male, female.

From the turn of the millennium onwards, Bouraoui’s writing turned away from the abjection that characterised her earliest texts, and the emphasis on childhood and national identity of the middle years, and she became increasingly interested in articulations of desire and fluid sexualities. The 2002 La Vie heureuse marks the point at which she fully explores lesbian sexuality in her writing and expressions of lesbian desire are further developed in Poupée Bella’s diary-format. Mes Mauvaises Pensées is a confessional interior monologue that seeks to capture repressed and unconscious thoughts and desires, while Avant les hommes (2007) considers youth, identification and sexuality. With the recent Appelez-moi par mon prénom and Nos Baisers sont des adieux, Bouraoui offered further meditations on subjectivity and desire, writing and reality. Appelez-moi par mon prénom is explicitly inspired by Marguerite Duras, who, Bouraoui herself admits, exerts a strong influence across all of her work, along with Violette Leduc, Hervé Guibert and Annie Ernaux.

Bouraoui’s work has been met with critical acclaim from the beginning of her writing career, with La Voyeuse interdite being awarded the Prix du Livre Inter in 1991. More recently in 2005, Mes Mauvaises Pensées gained the prestigious Prix Renaudot. Bouraoui is perhaps best known as being at the forefront of contemporary francophone North African writing, as well as contemporary lesbian/queer writing in French. Her readership continues to develop across both popular and critical audiences, however, especially as her texts are becoming more widely translated.

Compiled by Amaleena Damlé (Cambridge)

Bibliography

La Voyeuse interdite (Paris: Gallimard, 1991)

Poing mort (Paris: Gallimard, 1992)

Le Bal des murènes (Paris: Fayard, 1996)

L’Âge blessé (Paris: Fayard, 1998)

Le Jour du séisme (Paris: Stock, 1999)

Garçon manqué (Paris: Stock, 2000)

La Vie heureuse (Paris: Stock, 2002)

Poupée Bella (Paris: Stock, 2004)

Mes Mauvaises Pensées (Paris: Stock, 2006)

Avant les hommes (Paris: Stock, 2007)

Appelez-moi par mon prénom (Paris: Stock, 2008)

Nos Baisers sont des adieux (Paris: Stock, 2010)

Sauvage (Paris: Stock, 2011)

English Translations of Bouraoui’s Work

Forbidden Vision [Translation by Melissa Marcus] (Barrytown: Station Hill Press, 1995)

Tomboy [Translation by Marjorie Attignol-Salvadon and Jehanne-Marie Gavarini] (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008)

Compiled by Amaleena Damlé (Cambridge)

 

Criticism

Agar-Mendousse, Trudy: Violence et créativité: de l’écriture algérienne au féminin (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2006)

— :‘Fracturing the Self: Violence and Identity in Franco-Algerian Writing’ in Violent Depictions: Representing Violence Across Cultures, ed. by Susanna Scarparo and Sarah McDonald (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2006, pp. 18-31)

Angelo, Adrienne: ‘Sujet buvard, sujet bavard: Nina Bouraoui’s words to say it’ (Women in French Studies [Special issue]: ‘Women’s Self-Narrative Across the Francophone World’ ed. by Natalie Edwards, Christopher Hogarth and Amy L. Hubbell, 2011, pp. 79-90)

Damlé, Amaleena: ‘The Wild Becoming of Childhood: Writing as Monument in Nina Bouraoui's Sauvage’ in Writing Childhood in Post-War Women's Literature ed. by Gill Rye (Forum for Modern Language Studies 49.2 [Special issue], Spring 2005,  pp. 166-74)

— : The Becoming of the Body: Contemporary Women's Writing in French (Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2014)

— : ‘“Multiple et changeante”: Amour, connaissance et fragilité dans Nos baisers sont des adieux de Nina Bouraoui’ in Aventures et expériences littéraires: Écritures des femmes en France au début du vingt-et-unième siècle ed. by Amaleena Damlé and Gill Rye (Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2014, pp. 125-141)

Fulton, Dawn: ‘Review’ (The French Review, 74.4, 2001, pp. 836-7)

Gauthier, Mélissa Jane: ‘Du désir de se désidentifier à la volonté de tout intégrer: L’évolution du sujet buvard chez Nina Bouraoui’ (@nalyses, 11.1, Winter 2016: ‘Subjectivités mouvantes: Somatisation et subjectivation dans les écrits des femmes depuis 1990’, ed. by Evelyne Ledoux-Beaugrand and Anne Martine Parent, pp. 108-134), available online at https://uottawa.scholarsportal.info/ojs/index.php/revue-analyses/issue/view/247

Grasset, Eloi: ‘“Je ne sais plus qui je suis”: l’identité indécidable et l’écriture du délire dans Mes mauvaises pensées de Nina Bouraoui’ (Expressions maghrébines 14.1, Summer 2015 [Special issue: Écrivaines d’Algérie: Fictions de l’origine, origines de la fiction], pp.173-82)

Harrington, Katharine: ‘Writing Between Borders: Nomadism and its Implications for Contemporary French and Francophone Studies’ (Contemporary French and Francophone Studies, 10.2, April 2006, pp. 117-125)

Höfer, Bernadette: ‘Regard, violence et mutisme: la relation père-filles dans La Voyeuse interdite de Nina Bouraoui’ in Relations familiales dans les littératures française et francophone des XXe et XXIe siècles: I. La figure du père ed. by Murielle Lucie Clément and Sabine Van Wesemael (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2008, pp. 125-33)

Horvath, Christina: ‘Entre dualité et multiplicité: le tiers espace dans Garçon manqué de Nina Bouraoui’ in Migrations des identités et des textes entre l'Algérie et la France, dans les littératures des deux rives ed. by Charles Bonn (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2004, pp. 193-203)

Jaccomard, Hélène: ‘“Cours, cours, Nina!”: Garçon manqué de Nina Bouraoui’ (Essays in French Literature, 41, 2004, pp. 43-61)

Fernandes, Martine: ‘Confessions d’une enfant du siècle: Nina Bouraoui ou la batârde dans Garçon manqué et La Vie heureuse’ (L’Esprit Créateur [Special issue]: A New Generation: Sex, Gender and Creativity in Contemporary Women’s Writing in French ed. by Gill Rye, 45.1, Spring 2005, pp. 67-78)

—: ‘La métaphore cognitive de la guerre de Nina Bouraoui’ in Des femmes écrivent la guerre, ed. by Frédérique Chevillot and Anna Norris (Grignan: Editions Complicités, 2007)

Leek, Sara Elizabeth: ‘“L’écriture qui saigne”: Exile and Wounding in the Narratives of Nina Bouraoui and Linda Lê’ in Contemporary Women’s Representations of Wounded Bodies and Minds ed. by Ana de Medeiros and Carine Fréville (International Journal of Francophone Studies 15.2 [Special issue], 2012)

MacLachlan, Rosie: Nina Bouraoui, Autofiction and the Search for Selfhood  (Oxford: Peter Lang [Studies in Contemporary Women's Writing, 5], 2016)

McIlvaney, Siobhan: ‘Double Vision: The Role of the Visual and the Visionary in Nina Bouraoui’s La Voyeuse interdite’ (Research in African Literatures, 35.4, 2004, pp.105-120)

Mooney, Susan: ‘Empreintes paternelles sur la masculinité et la féminité chez Nina Bouraoui et Michel Houellebecq’ in Mythes et érotismes dans les littératures et les cultures francophones de l’extrême contemporain ed. by Efstratia Oktapoda (Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2013)

Parent, Anne-Martine: ‘La peau buvard de Nina Bouoraoui’ in Self-fictions ([Special issue] Revue Critique de Fixxion Française/Critical Review of Contemporary French Fixxion, 4, 2012, pp. 93-101)

Rocca, Anna: ‘Nina Bouraoui’s Nos baisers sont des adieux: Ekphrasis and the Accumulation of Memories’ (Studies in Twentieth and Twenty-first Century Literatures 38.2, 2014 [Special Issue] Self and Stuff: Accumulation in Francophone Literature and Art, ed. by Natalie Edwards and Amy Hubbell)

Selao, Ching: ‘Porter l’Algérie: Garçon manqué de Nina Bouraoui’ (Esprit Créateur 45.3, 2005, pp. 74-84)

Segarra, Marta: Nouvelles Romancières francophones du Maghreb (Paris: Karthala, 2010)

Van Zuylen, Maria: ‘Maghreb and Melancholy: A Reading of Nina Bouraoui’ (Research in African Literatures, 34.4, 2003, pp. 84-88)

Vassallo, Helen: ‘Wounded Storyteller: Illness as Life Narrative in Nina Bouraoui’s Garçon manqué’ (Forum for Modern Language Studies, 43.1, 2007, pp. 46-56)

—: ‘Embodied Memory: War and the Remembrance of Wounds in Nina Bouraoui and Leïla Sebbar’ (Journal of War and Culture Studies,1.2, January 2008, pp.189- 200)

—: ‘Unsuccessful Alterity? The Pursuit of Otherness in Nina Bouraoui’s Autobiographical Writing’ (International Journal of Francophone Studies, 12.1, January 2009, pp. 37-53)

—: The Body Besieged: The Embodiment of Historical Memory in Nina Bouraoui and Leila Sebbar (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2012)

—: ‘Embodiment, Environment and the Reinvention of Self in Nina Bouraoui's Life-Writing’ in Women's Writing in Twenty-First-Century France: Life as Literature ed. by Amaleena Damlé and Gill Rye (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2013, pp. 141-53)

—: ‘"I cried power": The (Im)Possibility of Female "Freedom" in Le Jour où Nina Simone a cessé de chanter (Darina Al-Joundi)’ in Writing, Reading, Grieving: Essays in Memory of Suzanne Dow, ed. by Ruth Cruickshank and Adam Watt (Nottingham French Studies [special issue] 53.1, March 2014, pp. 63-75)


Compiled by Amaleena Damlé (Cambridge)

 

Interviews


Anon, ‘Grand entretien. Nina Bouraoui: L’écriture au corps’ (Transfuge, 39, April 2010;
excerpts online at http://www.transfuge.fr/entretien,anonyme,233.php)

Barrot, Olivier: ‘Nina Bouraoui: La Vie heureuse’, Un livre, un jour [26 September 2002]
http://www.ina.fr/art-et-culture/litterature/video/2103471001/nina-bouraoui-la-vie-heureuse.fr.html)

Castello, Edna: ‘Interview avec Nina Bouraoui’ (Magazine 360?, April 2004;
http://www.univers-l.com/interview_nina_bouraoui.htm)

Cathetroll: ‘Une interview de Nina Bouaroui: “L’écriture est une pratique amoureuse”
http://cathetroll.over-blog.com/categorie-326698.html

Delos, Soline: ‘Nina Bouraoui’ (Elle; online at
http://www.elle.fr/elle/Beaute/News-beaute/Beaute-des-stars/Nina-Bouraoui/%28gid%29/713146#)

Durand, Guillaume: ‘Esprits libres’ (France 2; online at http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x21tv5_nina-bouraoui-esprits-libres)

Geffroy, Lucie: ‘Quand Nina Bouraoui parle des hommes’ (Magazine 360?, 11 June 2007;
http://www.360.ch/presse/2007/06/quand_nina_bouraoui_parle_des_hommes.php

Journet, Adeline: ‘Nina Bouaroui et Sara Stridsberg : “L’écrivain est un marginal”’ (L’Express, 9 May 2011) online at http://www.lexpress.fr/culture/livre/nina-bouraoui-et-sara-stridsberg-l-ecrivain-est-un-marginal_990537.html

Simonnet, Dominique: ‘Nina Bouraoui: ‘Écrire, c'est retrouver ses fantômes’ (L’Express, 31 May 2004) online at http://www.lexpress.fr/culture/livre/ecrire-c-est-retrouver-ses-fantomes_819681.html

Compiled by Amaleena Damlé