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Joseph Ford (Institute of Languages, Cultures and Societies, School of Advanced Study): 'Reflections on books and small publishers in and around the contemporary Algerian novel: lessons for collecting'

Senate House library has recently engaged in the process of acquiring the literature catalogue of the small Algerian publisher, Éditons Barzakh - a fledgling publishing company founded in the wake of the Algerian civil conflict of the 1990s. The publisher gives space for a more experimental, grounded and multilingual form of literary expression, with many of their books published in French (not an official language in Algeria, but one that many writers and journalists still use alongside the local vernacular Algerian Arabic). In this paper, I explore how one of their young Algerian writers, Kaouther Adimi (b 1986), uses a historical novel about a small publisher to comment on the broader dynamics of writing and publishing books from contemporary Algeria. In so doing, I try to extrapolate some lessons for our own collecting practices and how these might help or hinder the mission of a small publisher like Éditons Barzakh.

The Book and Print Initiative unites the study of printed material as a physical object with the information it contains and its influence on society. Rejecting the conventional limits of ‘text and image’, its inclusive remit spans artefacts of bindings to zoological illustrations.

The Book and Print Initiative’s directors are Tansy Barton (Senate House Library), Raphaële Mouren (British School at Rome & Warburg Institute), and Elizabeth Savage (Institute of English Studies).