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Release: Nov. 27, 2001

Community reading project ends with conversation with Algerian writer Dec. 5

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The culmination of the six-week community reading project, "All Johnson County Reads the Same Book," will be conversation about Tahar Djaout's novel "The Last Summer of Reason," with Algerian author Assia Djebar. The conversation, entitled, "The First Winter of Reason: Writing, Human Rights, and the New World Order," is free and open to the public and is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 5 in the Buchanan Auditorium (Room W10) of the Pappajohn Business Building on the University of Iowa campus.

Just before her visit to Iowa City, Djebar's 1976 documentary "La Nouba des femmes de Mort Chenoua," will be shown on Sunday, Dec. 2 from 4-6 p.m. in Room 101, Becker Communication Studies Building (BCSB). This event is also free and open to the public. This film, which won the Venice Biennale Critics' Prize, mingles narrative and documentary styles to document the creation of women's personal and cultural histories. Its title and structure are taken from the "Nouba," a traditional song of five movements. Reading the history of her country as written in the stories of women's lives, Djebar's film is an engrossing portrait of speech and silence, memory and creation, and a tradition where the past and present coexist.

Also on Dec. 2, there will be a screening of the film Itto, by French directors Marie Epstein and Jean-Benoit Levy from 6:30-8:30 p.m., in room 203 BCSB. This is a rarely seen feature by two of the interwar French film industry's most progressive filmmakers about the meeting between French colonial officials and Moroccan/Berber insurgents, and the women on both sides of the conflict.

Djebar, a novelist, scholar, poet, and filmmaker, writes in French, and her books have been translated into many languages. Those currently available in English are "Women of Algiers in their Apartment" (1992), "A Sister to Scheherezade" (1993), "Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade" (1993), "Far from Madina" (1994), "A Prison So Vast" (1995), and "Algerian White" (2001). An Algerian with Berber roots, she was educated in France and in her homeland.

Djebar won the prestigious Neustadt Prize for Contributions to World Literature in 1996 for "perceptively crossing borders of culture, language, and history in her fiction and poetry." Among her many other literary prizes are the Yourcenar Prize in 1997 and the German Publishers' Peace Award in 2000. In that year, she was also awarded the French Legion of Honor. At present she is a professor of French and Francophone Studies at New York University.

"All Johnson County Reads the Same Book," is a countywide reading project sponsored by the UI Center for Human Rights and others. Adult and adolescents in Johnson County have been invited to read and discuss "The Last Summer of Reason" by the late Algerian writer Tahar Djaout. The book, which was chosen for the project before the events of Sept. 11, involves a bookstore owner who is in a country being taken over by radical conservatives who want to reshape society to fit their rigid, moralistically extreme theology.

For details about the overall project, consult the Web site for the UI Center for Human Rights at <www.uichr.org> where pertinent discussion notes and questions are posted. For an on-line discussion of the book, see <www.press-citizen.com>.

Project sponsors in addition to the UI Center for Human Rights are the UI International Writing Program, Prairie Lights Bookstore, the Iowa City Human Rights Commission, and the Iowa City and Coralville public libraries. Cosponsors include Hancher Auditorium, the UI Institute for Cinema and Culture, UI International Programs, the University Book Store, Iowa Book and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Iowa City High School and the West High School Library are also formal participants in the project.