This article offers a socio-historical approach to analyzing the genesis of the
notion of “Algerian literature” and its structural relationship to “French literature”—
unstable notions that have been subject to fierce debate. I show how
“Algerian literature” has been nationalized and ethnicized during the twentieth
century. These transformations are linked to Algerian writers’ literary and political
struggles with one another. Their approaches to affirming or denying the very
existence of “Algerian literature” during the colonial era, or its ethnic character
after Algerian independence, depended on their political convictions, but also on
their recognition within the French-Algerian literary space. A structural analysis
of the kind offered here allows us to see new historical continuities and ruptures
between French colonial literature and the literature of post-independence Algeria.
It reveals too that the figure of Albert Camus has remained in the heart of the
debates even to this day.