Kateb Yacine ((August 2, 1929 or August 6, 1929 – October 28, 1989) was an Algerian writer notable for his novels and plays, both in French and Algerian Arabic dialect, and his advocacy of the Berber cause.
He was born into a scholarly maraboutic Berber family from Sedrata in western Souk Ahras. His maternal grandfather was the ‘bach adel’, or deputy judge of the qadi in Condé Smendou (Zirout Youcef). His father was a lawyer, and the family followed him through his various assignments in different parts of the country. Young Kateb (which means ‘writer’), attended the Sedrata Quran school in 1937, then in 1938 the French school in Lafayette (Bougaa) in Little Kabylie, where the family had moved. In 1941 he enrolled in the colonial ‘collège’ (secondary school) of Setif as a boarder.
Between 1972 and 1975 Kateb went with on tour performing the plays ‘Mohamed prends ta valise’ and ‘La Guerre de deux mille ans’ to France and to the German Democratic Republic. The Algerian government in Sidi-Bel-Abbes more or less sentenced him to direct the city’s regional theatre as a kind of exile. Having been forbidden to appear on television, Yacine staged his plays in schools or businesses. He was often criticized for his emphasis on Berber tradition and the ‘Tamazight’ language, as well as for his liberal positions on issues of gender equality such as his position against women being required to wear a headscarf.
In 1986 Kateb Yacine circulated an excerpt of a play about Nelson Mandela, and in 1987 he received the Grand prix national des Lettres in France.
In 1988 the Avignon Festival staged ‘Le Bourgeois sans culotte ou le spectre du parc Monceau’, a play about Robespierre that Yacine wrote at the request of the Arras Cultural Center for the bicentennial commemoration of the French Revolution. Yacine settled in Verscheny in Drôme, traveled often to the United States and continued to make frequent trips to Algeria. At his death he left an unfinished work on the Algerian riots of October 1988. In 2003 his works were admitted to the Comédie-Française.
Taught in the language of the colonizer, Kateb Yacine considered the French language the Algerians’ spoil of the war for independence. He declared in 1966 that “La Francophonie is a neocolonial political machine, which only perpetuates our alienation, but the usage of the French language does not mean that one is an agent of a foreign power, and I write in French to tell the French that I am not French”. Trilingual, Kateb Yacine also wrote and supervised the translation of his texts into the Berber language. His work manifests his multicultural country’s search for identity and the aspirations of its people.
Kateb Yacine is the father of three children, Hans, Nadia and Amazigh Kateb, singer for the band Gnawa Diffusion.
- Francisco Esaú Cossa – 1 August 1957
- Kateb Yacine – 2 August 1929 – died 28 October 1989
- Russell Smith – 2 August 1963
- James Arthur Baldwin – 2 August 1924 –died 1 December 1987
- Maguy (Margaret) Rashidi Kabamba -3 August 1960
- Antwone Quenton Fisher – 3 August 1959
- Edward Wilmot Blyden – 3 August 1832 – died 7 February 1912
- Christiaan Bakkes – 3 August 1965
- Marvel Jackson Cooke – 4 April 1903 –died 29 November 2000
- Robert Beck – 4 August 1918 –died 28 April 1992
- Robert Hayden – 4 August 1913 – died 25 February 1980
- Ramona Lofton – 4 August 1950
- William Kamkwamba – 5 August 1987
- Rochelle Alers – 7 August 1963