Albert Memmi, a ‘Jewish Arab’ Intellectual, Dies at 99

Albert Memmi, a ‘Jewish Arab’ Intellectual, Dies at 99

Albert Memmi, a ‘Jewish Arab’ Intellectual, Dies at 99

Albert Memmi, a ‘Jewish Arab’ Intellectual, Dies at 99

“But ultimately,” Mr. Locke wrote, “it is Memmi’s heart, not his skill, that moves you: the sights and sounds of Tunis, the childhood memories, the brothers’ sympathetic and contrasting voices, their all-too-human feelings, have a resonance that reawakens for a while the ghost of European humanism.”

Albert Memmi was born in Tunis on Dec. 15, 1920, one of 13 children of Fraj Memmi, a Tunisian-Italian Jewish saddle maker, and Maira Sarfati, who was of Jewish and Berber heritage.

After starting Hebrew school when he was 4, he graduated from the prestigious Lycée Carnot de Tunis in 1939. When France’s collaborationist Vichy regime imposed anti-Semitic laws during World War II, he was expelled from the University of Algiers, where he was studying philosophy, and sent to a labor camp in eastern Tunisia.

When the war ended, Mr. Memmi resumed his studies at the Sorbonne in Paris and married Marie-Germaine Dubach, a French Catholic. They had three children. The family returned to Tunis in 1951, and he taught high school there, but they left after independence was proclaimed in 1956. There was no immediate word on his survivors.

Mr. Memmi became a professor at the Sorbonne and received a doctorate there in 1970. In 1975 he was named a director of the School of Higher Studies in Social Sciences.

Among his other books were the two-part “Portrait of a Jew” (published in 1962 and 1966) and “Dominated Man” (1968).

On Middle East policy, he described himself as a left-wing Zionist, favoring a separate Palestinian homeland while viewing Zionism as a form of anti-colonialism, because, he said, the Jew “has to fight for his national liberation and create a nation for himself.”


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