A book, “Térésa and Other Women”, by the internationally renowned writer, essayist, social commentator and recipient of the Legion D’Honneur, Albert Memmi, has been translated from French for the first time by Oxford-based Stephen Wilson.
Although Albert Memmi himself is not largely-known in the UK, his work was admired and supported by Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, both of whom have previously written prefaces to his books.
About Térésa and Other Women
Women as seen through the eyes of men! Set in a Paris restaurant, a reunion of old school friends provides a vehicle for telling after-dinner anecdotes on the theme of male-female relationships. A chance meeting, a moment of love, a tender memory, a bitter one.
The stories unfold in North Africa and France across the twentieth century. A fine irony runs through the book, as much a work of social criticism as human romance.
One story harks back to childhood, and another chronicles the ravages of old age. Some are poignant, and others are wry and witty. All are wise and well-observed.
A recurrent theme emerges in the way that, for Albert Memmi, an individual woman in her uniqueness embodies the essence of all femininity. He pays homage to women, as only a man who loves them can do.
Albert Memmi was born in Tunis in 1920 and settled in France after the Second World War. He was an internationally renowned fiction writer, essayist, teacher and social commentator, recipient of the Legion
D’Honneur and recognised by the Académie Française for the whole of his work. He died in Neuilly-sur-Seine, just west of Paris, on 22 May 2020 at the age of ninety-nine.
Stephen Wilson is a psychiatrist, critic, writer and translator who has lived and worked in Oxford for many years. He is the author of several books and has contributed numerous reviews and articles to national magazines, journals and newspapers.
Stephen said, “I am a great admirer of Albert Memmi’s work. He was the quintessential outsider. Honoured in both France and Tunisia, he didn’t feel at home in either place.
“Born in Tunis, at that time a French protectorate, his Jewish father, an artisan saddle-maker, was of Italian extraction, and his mother was a Berber, descendant of the minority indigenous community which had settled the land in Roman times.
“Subject to colonial rule, Memmi grew up on the edge of a Ghetto, speaking a Tunisean-Arabic patois. He rejected the narrow confines of his orthodox background, was educated in a lycée, and imbibed French culture. At the same time, he supported the anti-colonial independence movement.
During the Second World War, when Tunisia was under Nazi/Vichy occupation, he was incarcerated in a forced labour camp. He regarded himself as a Jewish-Arab, yet following independence, he felt unwelcome in the new majority Muslim State and reluctantly relocated to France.
“He maintained a nostalgic attachment to his childhood background and a strong ambivalence towards France. If it were any compensation, his place in the world, or the lack thereof, informed the humanity of his writing and doubtless enabled him to attain that sought-after Archimedean point, which is the essence of all great literature.”
“Térésa and Other Women” is due to be published on 28 March 2023.