|Zouikha Saoudi, 1943-1972|
I was searching through Banipal's archive when I found a special issue on Algerian literature (magazine no. 7 published in 2000), a beautiful volume illustrated by the visual artist Rachid Koraichi, introduced by Waciny Laaredj.
In his opening piece "Breaking the silence on Algerian literature", Laaredj tips his hat off to Zoulikha Saoudi, a woman he refers to as 'the greatest Algerian writer in Arabic'.
I'm ashamed to say that until reading Laaredj's article, I had never heard of Zoulikha Saoudi. A few hours of googling though brought me articles from the Algerian press, one penned by Laaredj also, who describe her journey as a writer and her work in a little more detail.
Zoulikha Saoudi, the 'mother' of Algerian literature in Arabic (dixit Waciny Laaredj), was born on 20 December 1943 in Khenchela (Babar), and passed away on 22 November 1972 in Algiers, during her hospitalisation to help a difficult pregnancy. She wrote several short stories, plays, poetry in the 60s, and a novel (1963). Laaredj says that the style and theme of her novel were pioneering and opened a new era for Algerian literature. Her work preceded by almost 10 years the novels of Tahar Wattar and other novelists now categorised as foundational work in the Algerian literary corpus written in Arabic.
But Zoulikha Saoudi's writing was not published in book format. Her pieces were published as serials in newspapers and during her time as a radio journalist, she read her stories to her audience under the pseudo Amal.
Her short stories and novel are therefore scattered in newspaper columns, pre-internet era, in a context where the newspapers concerned have closed shop.
But all is not lost, in fact much has been rescued. I read in the Arabic press that the scholar Ahmed Cheribet worked hard to preserve her writing and collected material written by Zoulikha in an anthology published in 2001:
الآثار الأدبية الكاملة للأديبة الجزائرية، زليخا السعودي، 1943-1972
This book is listed on google books but I have so far found no avenue to a physical copy.
Let the hunt begin.