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Albert Memmi papers

Call Number: GEN MSS 1818

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of writings, correspondence, project files, teaching materials, journals, photographs, printed material, personal papers, and audiovisual and computer media documenting the life and career of French-Tunisian author, critic, and philosopher Albert Memmi. Included are drafts, notes, research material, reviews, and fan mail related to works by Memmi such as La Libération du juif; Portrait du colonisé, précédé du portrait du colonisateur; Portrait du décolonisé arabo-musulman et de quelques autres; Le racisme; and Statue de sel. The collection contains extensive notes and drafts for articles, essays, lectures, speeches, interviews, and unpublished works on decolonization, African Americans, women, Jewish identity, North African literature, antisemitism, racism, oppression, happiness, and alcohol dependency. Memmi's journals, dating from 1936 to 2019, document his early life, work, and travels, in particular his brief imprisonment in a Nazi labor camp during World War II, and later his expulsion from Tunisia following independence from France. Among the correspondents in the collection are writers, educators, activists, artists, and politicians including James Baldwin, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Mark Chagall, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Shimon Peres, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Elie Wiesel; anti-racist and human rights groups such as Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre les peuples; and figures associated with the Négritude movement, including Alioune Diop, a Senegalese writer, editor, and founder of the journal Présence africaine, and poet Léopold Séndar Senghor, the first president of Senegal.


  • 1922-2020


Language of Materials

In French, with some materials in English, Hebrew, Arabic, German, Italian, Spanish, and Japanese.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Box 95 (computer media): Restricted fragile material. Access copies of computer files may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.

Boxes 96-97 (audiovisual material): Restricted fragile material. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Albert Memmi Papers is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Librairie Benoit Forgeot on the Edwin J. Beinecke Book Fund, 2021.


Organized into five series: I. Writings, 1936-2020. II. Correspondence, 1940-2019. III. Photographs, circa 1925-2018. IV. Professional and Personal Papers, 1922-2020. V. Computer and Audiovisual Media, 1980-2009.


93.52 Linear Feet (97 boxes)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The collection consists of writings, correspondence, project files, teaching materials, journals, photographs, printed material, personal papers, and audiovisual and computer media documenting the life and career of French-Tunisian author, critic, and philosopher Albert Memmi.

Albert Memmi (1920-2020)

Albert Memmi was a Tunisian-born Jewish Berber Francophone writer, critic, and philosopher best known for his 1957 study Portrait du colonisé, précédé du Portrait du colonisateur (translated as The Colonizer and the Colonized). His other non-fiction works include Portrait d’un Juif (1962, 1966); L'Homme dominé (1973); La Terre intérieure (1976); Le dépendance (1979); Le racisme (1982); Ce que je crois (1985); and Ah, quel bonheur! (1995). His first novel, La statue de sel (1953), with a preface by Albert Camus, was awarded the Fénéon Prize in 1954. Other novels include Agar (1955), Le scorpion (1969), Le désert (1977), and Le pharaon (1988). Memmi also helped found a psychology institute and the independence journals L’Action and Jeune afrique, and he taught at several universities including École pratique des hautes études and École des hautes études commerciales de Paris.

Memmi was born in French colonial Tunisia to Maïra Sarfati and Fradji Memmi. He was educated in French primary schools, Lycée Carnot in Tunis, where he later briefly taught, the University of Algiers, and the Sorbonne in Paris. During the Nazi occupation of Tunisia, Memmi was imprisoned in a labor camp, from which he later escaped. Memmi was expelled from Tunisia after the country declared independence from France in 1956.

Separated Materials

Printed material received with the collection was removed for separate cataloging and can be accessed by searching the library’s online catalog.

Processing Information

Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, competing priorities, and whether or not further accruals are expected. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.

Information included in the Description of Papers note and Collection Contents section is drawn from information supplied with the collection and from an initial survey of the contents. Folder titles appearing in the contents list below are often based on those provided by the creator or previous custodian. Titles have not been verified against the contents of the folders in all cases. Otherwise, folder titles are supplied by staff during initial processing.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.
Guide to the Albert Memmi Papers
by Brooke McManus
April 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard

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Access Information

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