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This report is taken from PN Review 64, Volume 15 Number 2, November - December 1988.

Beur Fiction Alec Hargreaves
In just five years, Jean-Marie Le Pen has shot from almost total obscurity to become the centre of political debate in France. More discreetly, these same years have seen the emergence of a new phenomenon on the French literary scene: that of Beur fiction. What these two developments have in common - albeit in an antithetical way - are their links with France's new, predominantly Muslim, ethnic minorities. Le Pen's electoral support is grounded in open hostility towards the immigrant community. The novels produced by Beur writers testify to the growing determination of that community to establish a legitimate space for itself within French society.

Beur is the name by which so-called second generation North African 'immigrants', the sons and daughters of migrant workers in France, are popularly known. The inverted commas are necessary because the Beurs have been brought up in France, and most were in fact born there, so they are hardly immigrants at all in any literal sense. Most of their parents were illiterate when they arrived in France to take up unskilled jobs during the post-war economic boom. Consequently, we have no first-hand literary accounts of the experiences of first generation North African immigrants. By contrast, learning to read and write was an integral part of their children's compulsory schooling in France. For a mixture of cultural and economic reasons, the passage of these youngsters through the French educational system has often been a troubled one, but a growing number of Beurs have now begun ...


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