Women’s Prison: Literally and Figuratively

Michelle Reale

The recent translation of Assia Djebar’s “So Vast the Prison,” which focuses on rights of women in general and those of Algerian women in particular, seems timely in light of the world’s recent concern over the status of women in Afghanistan. In the tradition of Fatima Mernissi and Nawal al-Saadawi, Djebar does not tell her tale linearly and may, at least at the outset, somewhat confuse or bewilder her reader. She attempts to explicate the uneasy existence of Algerian women as they struggle for recognition, rights and the opportunity to transcend the strictures of a tradition that had originally served to “protect” women, but now simply constrains them. 


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