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Thesis Format



Doctor of Philosophy


Comparative Literature


Bhatia, Nandi


Western University


The empire knows how to write back even after it shrinks, but the formerly colonized who move to the metropolis write differently. Two Maghrebi diasporic novelists – Driss Chraïbi, a Moroccan living in France and Salah Methnani, a Tunisian who found shelter in Italy --, scan the territories of their adoptive countries, produce maps of tortured inner experience, and amalgamate the autobiographic with the fictional. They write in the respective languages of their adoptive countries: Chraïbi, at the very beginning of the Maghrebi diasporic literature in France, published Les Boucs in 1955 and Methnani (in collaboration with Mario Fortunato), published the first Maghrebi immigrant novel in Italian, Immigrato in 1990. In revealing the creativity and productive capacities of the Maghrebi diaspora, Les Boucs and Immigrato are ground-breaking novels of the diasporic experiences of Algerians, Moroccans and Tunisians living in France and Italy. The analyses of Les Boucs and Immigrato and of their critical reception constitute the bulk of this dissertation. Drawing on Ato Quayson’s concept of the “diasporic imaginary” and Linda Hutcheon’s theory of “irony” and “parody,” the dissertation focuses on the constant intertwining of gravitas and levitas in the two novels. It claims that through the deployment of these literary devices, Les Boucs and Immigrato uniquely stress the grave, dramatic, and at times tragic dimensions of the Maghrebi condition in the diaspora. To this end, the subtle presence of the ironic and the parodic, along with instances of levity, challenges prevalent readings of Maghrebi diasporic literature as homogeneous. Shifting the critical attention from text and author to the reader, this study’s final chapter contends that Les Boucs and Immigrato invite the reader to play an active role in the production of meaning.

Summary for Lay Audience

The twentieth century has witnessed an unprecedented phenomenon of migration of Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian populations to Europe in the aftermath of national independences, and Maghrebi diasporic communities are now scattered all over the world. In this dissertation, I look at the first two literary texts from the Maghrebi diaspora that centre on the experience of migration from the Maghreb to France and Italy in the twentieth century.

The literary analysis of Les Boucs (1955) written by Moroccan-born Driss Chraïbi, and Immigrato (1990) written by Tunisian-born Salah Methnani in collaboration with Italian-born Mario Fortunato demonstrates that although these texts shed light on the tragic dimension of the Maghrebi condition in the diaspora, at times tragedy is interrupted by lighter episodes.

Critical voices of the Maghrebi diaspora as well as scholars of French, Francophone and Italian literature, and Ato Quayson’s work on diaspora, along with Linda Hutcheon’s concepts of irony and parody contribute to the theoretical framework of this dissertation.

Les Boucs offers one of the first contributions to a Maghrebi diasporic imaginary in the French context, and the text is singularly loaded with irony. Immigrato is a pioneering text of the Maghrebi diaspora in Italian and can also be read as a parody. This study’s final chapter contains a reflection on the mechanisms of literary evaluation with a focus on the potential offered by a comparative study of texts written by members of migrant and diasporic communities. I also argue that Les Boucs and Immigrato invite the reader to play an active role in the production of meaning.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Available for download on Saturday, December 31, 2022