Tahar Djaout, the North African novelist, died on June 3, 1993 after being shot by a hit man. His death, at the age of 39, is a tragic loss for Algeria in general, and for the Amazigh culture in particular, adding to the literary vacuum caused by the death of two prominent Algerian writers, Mouloud Mammeri and Kateb Yacine, in 1989.
A native of Azzefoun, Kabylia, Tahar Djaout moved to Algiers to complete his elementary and secondary school. He later obtained a Bachelor in Mathematics, and another in Information Science and Communication. He became a career journalist with the weekly "Algérie-Actualité" and "Actualité de L'Emigration" newspapers in 1976. In 1993 he co-founded another weekly newspaper, "Ruptures," and became the chief editor until his tragic death.
Tahar Djaout was also a passionate poetry and fiction writer. His first poetry book "Solstice barbelé" was published by Editions Naaman, Ottawa in 1975. "L'Arche a vau l'eau," published by Editions Saint-Germain-des Prés, Paris, followed in 1978. Two additional poetry books, "L'insulaire et Clé" (1980) and "L'oiseau minéral" (1982), were published by Siegan, l'Orycle. His first novel, "L'exproprié", was published in 1981 by SNED, Algiers. Editions du Seuil, Paris, published "Les Chercheurs d'os" (1984), "L'invention du desert" (1987), and "Les vigiles" (1991). He also edited an anthology of Algerian poetry, "Les mots migrateurs", published by SNED, and an interview of prominent Amazigh writer and anthropologist Mouloud Mammeri, which was published by Editions Laphomic. His work was deservedly rewarded in 1984 when he won the prize of Duca Foundation for his book, "Les Chercheurs d'os". Another novel, "Les vigiles", was awarded the "Prix Mediterranée" in 1991.
Probably influenced by the poetic writings of Kateb Yacine, and the ethnological writings of Mouloud Feraoun, Tahar Djaout explores the past and the present, incorporating the history of North Africa, the colonization of Algeria, and his childhood experience in a Kabyl village. His search for self and identity is illustrated by his narrators' voyages in space and time, which is present in most of his writings. He draws on his chilhood experience to show the reader how a child comes up with schemes to satisfy his curiosity, well aware of the societal norms and what a child is permitted to do. He says that "I was too young to accompany the shepherds to the grazing fields. So I had to think of another way. I thought of following a chicken until the cactuses bordering the village."
By tapping the sources of a country and its individuals, Tahar successfully conveys the realities of Algerian society. His talent, while focusing on the intricate aspects of Algerian society, goes beyond and analyzes more universal issues, such as the search for one's own identity. In referring to his Amazigh identity in "L'inventeur du desert", Tahar writes that "the fig tree was the only thing trying to hold me back, while everything else was telling me to leave." Furthermore, Tahar eloquently says that "I could not know that the future was reserving the same peregrination as for the swallows... I had to return to the roof that sheltered my nest in clay."
As aptly put by a professor of North African literature in the United States, Tahar Djaout was the heir of the "Generation of 52" writers, among whom were Mouloud Mammeri, Mouloud Feraoun, Kateb Yacine, and Mohamed Dib. Like them, he is a legendary novelist and a bigger-than-life human being.
Tahar Djaout leaves his wife and three children. The Amazigh Cultural Association in America mourns this sudden loss, which is felt by the Algerian and the Universal culture. Tahar left us a priceless message in his work for the betterment and the solidarity of all of the peoples and cultures in Algeria. This is why the enemies of his ideas saw the need to assassinate him. He will always be remembered by our contemporaries and the generations to come.
Raveh Seffal & Khaled Bounar
Article published under the title "Tahar: Rest in Peace..." in The Amazigh Voice, Vol. 2, No. 2, July 1993
 Quote in French: "J'étais encore trop petit pour accompagner les bergers. Il fallait trouver autre chose. Je pense que j'ai du poursuivre une poule jusqu'aux cactées du village."
 Quote in French: "Le figuier etait le seul a tenter de me retenir, tout le reste me parlait de depart."
 Quote in French: "L'inventeur du desert, he writes : "Je ne pouvais pas savoir que l'avenir me reservait les memes peregrinations qu'aux hirondelles... J'ai tenu de revenir au toit qui abritait mon nid d'argile."
Kenza, tazlitt i Tahar Djaout sɣur Lewnas Maɛtub
Kenza, a song by Lounes Matoub* in honor of Tahar Djaout