Living In-Between: On the Identity Breaklines of Albert Memmi’s La Statue de Sel


  • Valeria Giudici University of Turin



Identity, French colonialism, Liminality


This article analyses the problem of identity in the ambiguous coexistence of belonging and alienation found in Albert Memmi's semi-autobiographical La Statue de Sel (1953). It demonstrates how the protagonist and his author dwell in a temporary space between these two dimensions. The novel, as the debut of Memmi's literary career, has the peculiarity of initiating tears in the fabric of identity. Through close analysis, three threads are observed and considered: homeland, society and language. These threads are unpicked through the theoretical lens of two European philosophers: Bourdieu in relation to the protagonist's borderline occupation of disparate social fields and the instable detention of capital; and Derrida with regards to the lack of possession of any known languages as a consequence of colonialism. Both thinkers shed light on the identity struggles of the young Memmi who, on the threshold of Tunisian independence, experiences a liminal condition as manifested in each of the three threads, that is, he epitomises the point between the ‘no more’ and the ‘not yet’ that animates his identity crisis.