Theatre by Aziz Chouaki

Death of a man of letters

in Culture/North Africa

In the department of English at the university of Algiers where he taught Writing in the second half of the 1980s, he used to urge his students to read at least one book per week. He most probably wanted to pass his enthusiasm for literature to his students.

Born and reared in a family of teachers – his grandfather and his mother – Aziz Chouaki spent his childhood devouring books to compensate for the absence of his father. During his military service, he discovered the classical French literature and started writing short stories and poems which he published at his own expense.

Baya (1988), his first novel soon transformed him into a successful playwright after Jean-Pierre Vincent, the manager of the theater des Amandiers de Nanterre, offered to adapt the novel into a play. Les Oranges (1997) became a major text in French drama. It tells the history of Algeria by metaphorising the oranges. Aziz Chouaki composed many other plays like El Maestro (2001), Une virée (2005), Les coloniaux (2009), Zoltan (2012) and Nénesse (2018). He also continued to write novels. L’étoile d’Alger(2002) and Arobase(2004) were published both in Algeria and in France where he settled in the 1990s.

Like many others artists, Aziz Chouaki was forced to exile after receiving death threats. His contributions to Le Nouvel Hebdo with his “Nouvelles sulfureuses” blacklisted him by both the FLN and the FIS. It was a profitable exile, but still an exile. Reading, writing and music were all fairy lands where the man of letters spent more than six decades; his former students remember him as a placid rocker with a romantic air, a volcanic passion for letters he desperately yearned to share with them. Aziz Chouaki has gone too soon; he had probably much more to write. 

Aziz Chouaki

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