This article undertakes a sociological reading of three contemporary Algerian novels to assess the text as a social product indicative of social practice, where fiction casts the realities of Algerian life in a concise and highly revealing form–potentially more indicative of its intricacies and particulars than documentary forms. The novels under consideration are Dhākirat al-Māʾ (The memory of water) by Wāsīnī al-Aʿwaj; KhwayyāDaḥmān (My brother Dahman) by Mirzāq Biqṭāsh; and Al-waram (The Tumor) of Muḥammad Ṣārī. Examined are key issues in Algeria, including issues of daily life from unemployment to alienation as well as Islamic fundamentalism — to whom it appeals — and how it pertains to the apparatuses of state and Algerian nationalism and identity. As the characters in the novels constitute archetypes of Algerian society, exploration of the stories, states of mind, pressures, influences and religious, cultural, and socio-economic factors can be effectively elucidated through these. Through the narratives of the characters in the novel, one is party to what Georg Lukács and René Girard referred to as a ‘degraded search’ for authentic values in a ‘degraded world’ where the most distinguishing features of narrative content reside in the disharmony and conflict between the fictional character and the Algerian reality in which he lives. The sociological reading of these novels suggests that one of the most effective ways of comprehending Algerian reality — especially at the level of the microcosm and the internal panorama of the self in society—may actually be through the fiction of Algerian writers.

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