Habib Tengour

Habib Tengour is a French-Algerian poet, sociologist and anthropologist. He was born in Mostaganem in eastern Algeria in 1947. The Tengour family moved to France when Habib was five years old, and he grew up there in a working-class household. He studied sociology in France and continued his studies in Algeria at Constantine University. Although his work draws heavily on various aspects of Algerian culture and tradition, Tengour writes mainly in French. His first published work was a book of surrealist poetry Tapapakitaques ou la poésie-île (1976). His principal translator in English is Pierre Joris. Tengour lives in Paris and Constantine. Books include: Exile is My Trade: A Habib Tengour Reader, translated by Pierre Joris (Black Widow Press, 2011); Empedocles's Sandal, translated by Pierre Joris (Duration Press, 1999), Tapapakitaques ou la poésie-île (1976). He currently directs the Franco-algerian research group working on the archives of the Algerian writer Mohammed Dib at the BNF (Bibliotheque Nationale Française). In 2015 he coordinated two training sessions for the genetic investigation of Dib’s texts. He is also a translator of poetry and prose from English (P. Joris) and from Arabic (Saadi Youssef, Chawki Abdelamir) into French.

Tengour’s research concentrates on an exploration of the cultural Algerian space in all its ramifications: oral tradition and hagiography, popular imagination and founding myths, collective memory, raï music and the experience of exile. The subjects closest to his heart are Algerian identity and cultural memory as they (inter)weave/creolize [“(mé)tissent”] between Orient and Occident, especially under the impact of the experiences of exile and migration. He is the author of more than 20 books of poetry and fiction in French, as well as the following available in English: Crossings, translated by Marilyn Hacker (Post Apollo Press, 2013); The University of California Book of North African Literature, co-edited with Pierre Joris (University of California Press, as volume 4 in the Poems For The Millennium anthology series, November 2012); and “Exile is my Trade:” A Habib Tengour Reader, edited, translated and with an introduction by Pierre Joris (Black Widow Press, Boston, 2011).