The American Sephardi Federation has awarded its Pomegranate Award for Lifetime Achievement to the writer and sociologist Albert Memmi at the start of the 22nd NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival.
Born in Tunisia into a poor Jewish family, the 98-year-old Memmi is a giant of Sephardi literature of French expression. His works include The Pillar of Salt, The Scorpion, Portrait of the Colonized, and numerous seminal sociological works.
Memmi situated his work early on at the crossroads of Jewish, Arab, and French cultures. Seen as a “Prophet of Decolonization,” he strove toward a recognition of multiple identities, the fight against all forms of racism, and wrote about the difficulty of finding a balance between East and West. Recognized by peers, including Albert Camus, Aragon, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Léopold Sedar Senghor, his work is often read in conjunction with those of Frantz Fanon and Aimé Césaire.
Dr. Judith Roumani, Editor of Sephardic Horizons and a translator of Memmi’s works, says “Albert Memmi’s writing as a philosopher, sociologist, novelist and poet has been revolutionary in many senses: he diagnosed the predicament of colonized peoples and in particular of the educated individual, and the predicament of Jews in Middle East countries, sharing both in the life of indigenous Muslims and in that of the colonizers, yet not accepted by either. He has perched precariously across three civilizations, but would not be complete if any one were missing. Inventor of the term ‘Arab Jew’, yet not confined by it. Recipient of many prizes, including the Grand Prix de la Francophonie by the Académie française, and the Prix de Carthage, awarded personally by President Bourguiba of Tunisia. A subtle and complicated writer in many genres, exemplifying Sephardi creativity.”
Due to Memmi’s advanced age, an award ceremony was organized at his home in Paris with authors Colette Fellous and Guy Dugas, coordinator of the upcoming Memmi Centennial in France and Tunisia.
Previous recipients of the ASF Pomegranate Award for Lifetime
Achievement include André Azoulay, Senior Counsellor to Morocco’s King
Mohammed VI; Enrico
Macias, the Algerian-born French international recording superstar, and
Erez Bitton, the award-winning Moroccan-born Israeli poet. The ASF
Pomegranate Award is sculpted by the renowned Baghdad-born artist Oded
Halahmy of the Pomegranate Gallery in Old Jaffa and Soho.