Tahar Wattar, Algerian author wrote in Arabic

By Aomar Ouali
Associated Press / August 14, 2010

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ALGIERS — Tahar Wattar, one of Algeria’s leading Arab-language writers, who used his novels to explore his nation’s struggle for independence from France and its post-colonial history, has died, the official APS news agency said.

He was 74.

A noted writer and friend, Wassini Laaredj, said Mr. Wattar died Thursday after a long illness. He had been hospitalized for cancer treatment on various occasions in Paris.

Mr. Wattar was known for his adversarial position toward Algeria’s French-language authors, whom he at one point denounced as “vestiges of colonialism.’’

One of the North African nation’s most prolific Arabic-language authors, Mr. Wattar revisited Algeria’s postcolonial history in his novels, sometimes using symbolism and allegory, as the nation tried to form an identity following its 1962 independence after a bloody war and more than 130 years of French rule.

The Arabic language, along with the Islamic faith, was a crucial component of the one-party state in forging the identity of a newly free nation.

Among Mr. Wattar’s best-known novels are “Al Laz,’’ his first novel, which was written in 1974, “A Mule’s Wedding’’ (1978), and “The Fisherman and the Palace’’ (1980).

While he appeared to support the nationalist movement and had the blessing of the state, Mr. Wattar subtly evoked the downside, portraying in some instances the disappointment that reality delivered as compared to the ideal.

Mr. Wattar also wrote plays and short stories such as “The Martyrs Are Coming Back This Week’’ and “Smoke From My Heart.’’