We previously published a blogpost about Cambridge University Library’s French acquisitions in relation to Women’s History Month. For International Women’s Day, we would like to shed light on three inspirational women featured in recent French language publications. Marie-Claude Vaillant-Couturier was a photographer, a Communist and a resistante. Uyaïnim was a member of the Jivaroan peoples in Peruvian Amazonia who fought for indigenous and women’s rights, and Nina Bouraoui is a Franco-Algerian writer whose works address question of identity and homosexuality.
Marie-Claude Vaillant-Couturier was a reporter and photographer, a resistant and Communist politician. She came from a liberal bourgeois family, daughter of Lucien Vogel, editor of the magazine Vu, and of Cosette de Brunhoff, sister of the creator of Babar and of the editor of Vogue. A pioneer woman photographer, she travelled to Germany in 1933 and was the first to photograph the camps of Oranienbourg and Dachau. She met a friend of her father, Paul Vaillant-Couturier, editor of communist newspaper L’Humanité, and became his partner, marrying him shortly before his death in 1937. During the war, she contributed to clandestine publications and worked as a messenger for the resistance. She was arrested in 1942 and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and then Ravensbrück. She returned to France in June 1945, testified at the Nuremberg trials in 1946 and became a Communist member of parliament. She has been the subject of two biographies :
- Marie-Claude Vaillant-Couturier : une femme engagée, du PCF au procès de Nuremberg / Dominique Durand, Balland, 2012.
- On l’appelait Maïco : Marie-Claude Vaillant-Couturier, la révoltée / Yseult Williams, Bernard Grasset, 2021. C206.d.8481
Uyaïnim, or Albertina Nanchijam Tuwits, from the Awajun / Aguaruna people (part of the Jivaroan peoples) in Peruvian Amazonia, became a spokeswoman for indigenous rights and the defense of women. Her memoirs are written through a collaboration with ethnologist Hélène Collongues. They speak of years of pressure put on the land and Amazonian indigenous people by the farmers and colonisers; the suspicion towards and failure of development projects; as well as the discrimination and deculturation faced by native people through educational missions. The narrative also exposes issues within patriarchal indigenous societies, from internal divisions and warfare to exploitation of and violence against women, also highlighting the corruption brought by the introduction of money and greed within these communities.
- Uyaïnim, Mémoires d’une femme jivaro / Hélène Collongues, Arles : Actes Sud, 2022, C219.c.2205
Nina Bouraoui was born from an Algerian father and a Breton mother. Her novels deal with questions of memory, identity, homosexuality, and nostalgia for Algeria, where she lived until she was a teenager. She was distinguished as Commandeure de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French ministry of Culture in 2018, and since the 2010s has been the subject of a number of critical studies.
- Beaux rivages, JC Lattès, 2016, C204.d.9787
- Tous les hommes désirent naturellement savoir, JC Lattès, 2018, C206.d.1617 (All men want to know / Nina Bouraoui ; translated by Aneesa Abbas Higgins. London : Viking, 2020 & 2021, LSF)
- Otages, JC Lattès, 2020, C206.d.6938
- Satisfaction, JC Lattès, 2021, C206.d.7485
Critical studies :
- Rabiaa Marhouch. Nina Bouraoui : la tentation de l’universel. Rennes, Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2023, 739:47.c.202.1
- Belgacem Belarbi, Nina Bouraoui, une nouvelle sensibilité littéraire, Sarrebruck, Editions Universitaires Européennes, 2022, C219.c.4993
- Myriam-Naomi Walburg. Zeit der Mehrsprachigkeit : literarische Strukturen des Transtemporalen bei Marica Bodrožić, Nina Bouraoui, Sudabeh Mohafez und Yoko Tawada. Würzburg, Ergon Verlag, 2017, C213.c.7656
- Rosie MacLachlan. Nina Bouraoui, Autofiction and the search for selfhood, Oxford ; New York, Peter Lang, 2016, 735:44.c.201.92
- Kirsten Husung. Hybridité et genre : chez Assia Djebar et Nina Bouraoui, L’Harmattan, 2014, C209.c.4543
- Mokhtar Atallah. Études littéraires algériennes : Albert Camus, Nina Bouraoui, Boualem Sansal, Ahmed Kalouaz, L’Harmattan, 2012, C207.c.1905