Ahlam Mostaghanemi, this woman is better known to the world as the first Algerian-born writer whose Arabic-language work was translated into English. Mostaghanemi herself was born on April 13, 1953, and is the daughter of one of Tunisia’s famous revolutionary figures, Mohammed Cherif. At the time of birth, Mostaghanemi’s father was in prison after detention due to the rebellion in 1945.
In 1954, the civil war in Algeria became an important event in the life of Mostaghanemi, and her family, because their home in Tunisia changed as a meeting point for almost all freedom fighters who were part of the Algerian People’s Party, including her father, Mohammed Cherif and many Mostaghanemi’s cousins. After independence in 1962, Mostaghanemi and her entire family returned to Tunisia. This return opened the opportunity for Mostaghanemi to take formal education in her first Arabic-language school.
Entering the end of the 1960s and early 1970s, Mostaghanemi became the first Algerian Arabic writer. The writer of the woman born in Tunis, Tunisia, broadcasts her poetry through Algerian national radio as well as helping her family’s financial situation after her father is no longer able to work because of health problems. In 1973, Mostaghanemi obtained a bachelor’s degree in Arabic Literature from the University of Algiers and in the same year, Mostaghanemi published her poetry collection for the first time under the title, Ala ’Marfa Al Ayam (The Harbor of Days).
In the late 1970s, Mostaghanemi moved to France. In 1982, Mostaghanemi managed to obtain a Ph.D. in Sociology from the Sorbonne University, Paris with a thesis entitled L’harmattan as Algerie, Femmes er l’Ecriture. Mostaghanemi married a Lebanese journalist and moved to her husband’s birthplace in Beirut. In this city, Mostaghanemi published her first novel entitled Memory in the Flesh (Zakirat al Jassad) in 1993. The debut of Mostaghanemi’s novel was very successful and it sold more than one million copies in various Arabic-speaking countries.
This success led Mostaghanemi as one of the female writers who was much talked about and respected in the world of Arabic literature. Not surprisingly, five years after its first publication, the novel received one of the most prestigious awards in Arabic literature, the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature. The next two years (2000), the same novel became the first Arabic language work to be translated into English by University of America Publishers in Cairo. Several years later, two other works from the Mostaghanemi trilogy also followed were translated into English, respectively Chaos of the Senses and Passer-by a Bed.
Mostaghanemi’s works are a picture of Algeria’s struggle after colonialism. For her services in defending her country’s nationalism through literature, Mostaghanemi received many awards such as the Nour Foundation Award for Creative Women (1996), Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for Memory of the Flesh (1998), The Amman Loyalty Medal for Creativity (1999), The George Tarabeh Prize for Culture and Creativity (1999) and The Pioneers of Lebanon Medal Committee (2004). In 2006, Mostaghanemi increasingly established herself as one of the most respected female writers in the Arab region.
Three prestigious awards were received by Mostaghanemi at the same year, the Medal of Appreciation and Gratitude from the Sheikh Abdelhamid Ben Badis Foundation, the Medal of Honor from the Algerian President herself, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and the Mostaghanemi image as The Most Famous Woman in Arabic World. Only a year later, Mostaghanemi again won two other awards, The Algerian Cultural Personality and The Shield of Al Jimar. And in 2009, Mostaghanemi was awarded the star of The Shield of Beirut for all her dedication and hard work defending the homeland through literary work.
In addition, the novel was also adopted by the curriculum in a number of universities and became research material for theses or papers. She also works as a visiting professor at many universities around the world. Like the American University of Beirut, 1995 – University of Maryland, 1999 – University of Sorbonne, 2002 – Montpellier University, 2002 – University of Lyon, 2003 – Yale University, 2005 – MIT Boston, 2005 – University of Michigan, 2005.
University of Algiers – Arabic Literature
Sorbonne University – Doctorate Degree, Sociology
Nour Foundation for Creative Women (1996)
Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature (1998)
Amman Loyalty Medal for Creativity (1999)
George Tarabeh Prize for Culture and Creativity (1999)
Pioneers of Lebanon Committee Medal (2004)
Medal of Appreciation and Gratitude from Sheikh Abdelhamid
Full Name: Ahlam Mosteghanemi
Place of Birth: Tunis, Tunisia
Date of Birth: Monday, April 13, 1953
Father: Mohammed Cherif