The Albert Memmi Reader


The Albert Memmi Reader

Edited by Jonathan Judaken and Michael Lejman

France Overseas: Studies in Empire and Decolonization Series

390 pages


February 2021


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February 2021


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February 2021


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About the Book

Born in 1920 on the edge of Tunis’s Jewish quarter, the French-Jewish-Tunisian sociologist, philosopher, and novelist Albert Memmi has been a central figure in colonial and postcolonial studies. Often associated with the anticolonial struggles of the 1950s and 1960s, Memmi’s career has spanned fifty years, more than twenty book-length publications, and hundreds of articles that are distilled in this collection.

The Albert Memmi Reader presents Memmi’s insights on the legacies of the colonial era, critical theories of race, and his distinctive story. Memmi’s novels and essays feature not only decolonial struggles but also commentary on race, the psychology of dependence, and what it means to be Jewish.

This reader includes selections from his classic works, such as The Pillar of Salt and The Colonizer and the Colonized, as well as previously untranslated pieces that punctuate Memmi’s literary life and career, and illuminate the full arc of the life of one of the great thinkers of the twentieth century. Selections from his later works speak directly to contemporary issues in European, African, and Middle Eastern studies, such as racism, immigration and European identity, and the struggles of postcolonial states, including Israel/Palestine.

Author Bio

Albert Memmi (1920–2020) was a French-Jewish-Tunisian sociologist, philosopher, and novelist. Jonathan Judaken is the Spence L. Wilson Chair in Humanities at Rhodes College. He is the author of Jean-Paul Sartre and the Jewish Question: Anti-antisemitism and the Politics of the French Intellectual (Nebraska, 2006). Michael Lejman is associate vice chancellor for institutional research and effectiveness at Arkansas State University, Mid-South.


"Jonathan Judaken and Michael Lejman, the editors of The Albert Memmi Reader, have done an amazing job at capturing the plurality of viewpoints and voices that constitute Memmi's long and storied intellectual career."—Jeffrey A. Bernstein, Society

"This reader is a most welcome addition to the slowly growing English-speaking archive of non-English postcolonial critics and thinkers and an especially welcome addition to the archive of non-English modern Jewish thinkers now more readily available in English. Memmi represents a fresh and inspiringly challenging voice that should no longer be ignored."—Willi Goetschel, H-Nationalism

“Memmi’s opus, presented as it is here, allows readers access to the literary trajectory of a distinguished writer and will breathe new life into current scholarship and teaching on colonialism, literature, theory, and Jewish history. A beautiful dialogue emerges, one that places Memmi’s ideas in conversation with himself and with readers in new and exciting ways.”—James D. Le Sueur, author of Uncivil War: Intellectuals and Identity Politics during the Decolonization of Algeria and director of the film The Art of Dissent

“This volume makes an extremely important contribution to numerous fields. Memmi’s work is of critical importance for postcolonial studies, Jewish studies, and studies in comparative racism; his is an exceptional and unique voice that adds nuance, detail, and depth to scholarship on North Africa and the Middle East, the Israel/Palestine question, and even contemporary issues of migration.”—Lia Nicole Brozgal, author of Against Autobiography: Albert Memmi and the Production of Theory

Table of Contents


Introduction by Jonathan Judaken

1. Biographical Reflections

Sea and Sun (1967)

Growing Up as a Minority Child

The Stationary Nomad (2000)

The Land Within: Interview by Victor Malka (1976)

Tunisia, a Minor-League Country: The State of Affairs (1955–56)

Tunisian Diaries, 1955–56

Preface to Portrait of a Jew (1971)

Interview with Albert Memmi by Dov Maimon (2007)

The Fecundity of Exile (2003)

Passport for a Hoped Immortality (2007)

2. The Pillar of Salt (1953)

The City

The Blind Alley

The Sabbath

Old Clothes

High School

The Choice

The Others

The War

The Inventory

3. Strangers (1955)

4. The Colonizer and the Colonized (1957)

Preface to the 1965 Edition

Does the Colonial Exist?

Camus, or the Colonizer of Good Will (La Nef) (1957)

Switching Perspective

Mythical Portrait of the Colonized


5. Portrait of a Jew (1962)

Revolution and Zionism (1947)

Why I Wrote Portrait of a Jew

The Problem

The Difference

The Myth

The Shadowy Figure

Conclusion—The Oppressed

Little Portrait of a Jew (1967)

6. The Liberation of the Jew (1966)


Does the Jew Exist?



The Encystment

Sanctuary Values

Is There a Jewish Culture?

The Jew and the Revolution

The Way Out

Response of Albert Memmi to Richard Marienstras (1966)

Preface to the Israeli Edition (1976)

7. Dominated Man (1968)

Why I Wrote Dominated Man (1969)

The Paths of the Revolt

A Total Revolt

The Negro and the Jew (1968)

The Impossible Life of Frantz Fanon (1971)

The New Slaves

A Tyrant’s Plea

Letter to Sally N’Dongo (1970)

8. The Scorpion, or The Imaginary Confession (1969)

Uncle Makhlouf—1 (Notes for a Portrait)

My Travels

9. Jews and Arabs (1974)

Questions for Colonel Kadhafi

What Is an Arab Jew?

The Colonized Jew

Justice and Nation

The Arab Nation and the Israeli Thorn


10. The Desert, Or the Life and Adventures of Jubair Wali Al-Mammi (1977)

What Historians Have to Say

What Historians Add

11. Dependence (1979)



Appendix: A Definition of Dependence

12. Racism (1982)

An Attempt at a Definition (1964)

What Is Racism? (1972)

Racism and Colonization

Racism and Anti-Semitism


13. Literary Reflections

For a Novel of Meaning (1959)

Introduction to Anthology of Maghrebi Writers in French (1964)

A Literature of Separation: Introduction to Anthology of French Writers of the Maghreb (1969)

Preface to Francophone Writers of the Maghreb: An Anthology (1985)

What Language to Write In?: The Literary Homeland of the Colonized (1996)

Emergence of a Maghrebi Literature in French: The 1954 Generation (2001)

14. Decolonization and the Decolonized (2004)

The Decolonized Man (1967)

Fundamentalisms and Secularism (1989)

Decolonization and the Decolonized Postface to the Pocket Edition (2004)

Decolonization and the Decolonized Selections

Elias Levy: An Exclusive Interview with Albert Memmi (2012)

Interview by Fériel Berraies Guigny (2008)

Source Acknowledgments



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