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Kateb Yacine: A Profile from the Archives

[Algerian writer Kateb Yacine] [Algerian writer Kateb Yacine]

[”A Profile from the Archives“ is a series published by Jadaliyya in both Arabic and English in cooperation with the Lebanese newspaper, Assafir. These profiles will feature iconic figures who left indelible marks in the politics and culture of the Middle East and North Africa. This profile was originally published in Arabic and was translated by Mazen Hakeem.]

Name: Kateb

Last Name: Yacine

Date of Birth: 1929

Date of Death: 1989

Place of Birth: Smondo - Constantine

Wife’s Name: Zobaida Sharghi

Category: Writer

Profession: Playwright, novelist, and poet

Kateb Yacine

  • Algerian national.
  • Born in a town called Smondo near Constantine on 6 August 1929.
  • His birth name is Yacine and his last name is Kateb. He decided to flip them around and thus he came to be known as Kateb Yacine.
  • His father was a lawyer.
  • Married Zobaida Sharghi; he named his eldest son Amazeigh.
  • Started writing poetry when he was eight years old.
  • Went to a Qu'ran school for a short time before he started going to the French School in Setif where he was introduced to Nerval, Baudelaire, and Verlaine.
  • Participated in Setif protests on 8 May 1945 against the French occupation before his sixteenth birthday. He was arrested in the demonstrations, detained at the central prison, and expelled from school.
  • After his release from prison, he roamed in Algeria and its desert and wrote poetry. His first collection of poems Soliloquy, monajat, was published in 1946.
  • Joined the Algerian Communist Party in 1947 and went on a trip to the Soviet Union in 1951.
  • Left Algeria for France and between 1948 and 1951, he worked as a correspondent for Alger Républicain (Algeria Republican) newspaper, which was established by the French writer Albert Camus.

[An interview in French, translated into English, in which Kateb Yacine criticizes the
French writer Albert Camus and contrasts him with William Faulkner.]

  • Travelled to Europe in 1955 and met Bertolt Brecht. Left France for Italy and lived there for a period of time.
  • He visited Vietnam twice, once in 1967 and then in 1970.
  • Wrote novels, plays, and poems against the French occupation of Algeria and in defense of his nation’s cause. His most famous play was "The Enclosed Corpse" (Le Cadavre encerclé) which caused a stir in French cultural circles when it was released. He also published the novel A Star, Nedjma. Both novels alluded to Algeria and its suffering.
  • Went back to Algeria in 1970 and stopped writing in French and started writing in vernacular Algerian. He established a theater group that performed his plays on stages in Algerian cities and European capitals. He used to say: “Just as I rebelled against the French Algeria, I rebel against the Arab Muslim Algeria. I am not Arab or Muslim. I am Algerian.”
  • Awarded many literary awards including: Jean Amroush Award in Florence in 1963, the Lotus Award in 1975, and the Grand National Award for Literature in Paris.
  • Died on 28 October 1989 at the age of sixty in Grenoble due to leukemia.



  • A Poet is Like a Boxer, (Le Poète comme un boxeur), (journalistic interviews) 1944
  • Abdelkader and the Algerian Independance, Abdelkader et l'indépendance algérienne, 1948
  • Nedjma, Nedjma, 1956.
  • The Starry Polygon, Le Polygone étoilé, 1966.


  • Soliloquy, Soliloques, 1946.
  • Poems for the Oppressed Algeria, qasa’id ila al-jaza’ir al-modhtahada, 1948.
  • One Hundred Thousand Virgins, mi’et alf a’thraa, 1958.
  • Under the Cries of the Rooster, tahta sarkhat al-deekah, 1956.
  • The Circle of Reprisal, Le Cercle des représailles, 1959


  • The Enclosed Corpse, Le Cadavre encerclé, 1955.
  • The Intelligence Powder, La Poudre d'intelligence, 1959.
  • The Ancestors are Double The Ferocity, Les Ancêtres redoublent de férocité, 1959.
  • The Man with the Rubber Sandals, L'Homme aux sandales de caoutchouc, 1970.
  • The Savage Woman, al-mar’a al-motawahisha, 1963.
  • Muhammad: Carry Your Bag, Mohammed prends ta valise, 1971.
  • The Butchery of Hope, Boucherie de l'espérance, 1971.
  • Oanisa, 1972.
  • Because It's a Woman. Parce que c'est une femme, 1972
  • The Two Thousand Year War, harb al-alfai sana, 1974.
  • King of the West, malek al-gharb, 1977.
  • Women’s Voice, sawt al-nisaa’.
  • The Deceived Palestine, falesteen al-makhdoo’
  • Moses the Sweeper, mosa al-kannas.
  • Nuggets of Creativity, shatharat ibdaa’, 1986. 


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