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PEN Case (1993): Tahar Djaout – Algeria, Murdered

© Michel-Georges Bernard, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


Tahar Djaout was born in January 1954.  Before studying at Algiers University, he became fluent in Berber, Arabic and French (the latter being his preferred language for writing). While studying mathematics at university his first book of poetry Solstice Barbele was published in 1975. 

Djaout graduated in 1976 and went on to work as a journalist for the French language newspaper Algérie-Actualité. While working as a reporter he had four novels published: L’Exproprie (1981), Les Chercheurs d’os (1984), L’Invention du desert (1987) and Les Vigiletes (1991), the last of which was awarded the 1991 Prix Mediterranée literary award in France.     Running themes in his novels were a cry against despotism and a call for respect for human rights.

In January 1993 Djaout co-founded the weekly newspaper Ruptures. Later that year, on 26 May, he was shot three times on his way to work in his car, and he died several days later. His death was attributed to ‘Islamic fundamentalists’. The Last Summer Of Reason, a novel he had been working on at the time of his murder, was published posthumously in 2001. It is described by one reviewer as “a powerful and strangely beautiful reminder of the danger of letting violent ideological fundamentalism fester. We would do well to heed this reminder now, not later.”

Writing Sample

Silence is death,

and you, if you talk, you die,

and if you remain silent, you die.

So, speak out and die.

From ‘Introduction’ in The Last Summer of Reason, translated by Marjolijn de Jager, introduction by Alek Baylee Toumi (Lincoln; London: University of Nebraska Press, 2007) ISBN: 978-0-8032-1591-7.

Useful links

Obituary, Tahar Djaout, June 1993:

On Djaout’s novel, The Last Summer of Reason’, 2009:

Reporters sans Frontieres on Taha Djaout (French), 2009:

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