City of origin: Algeria
Ciutat of refuge: Barcelona
Duration of period in refuge: 2007-2009
Les rêves de Yidir / Tirga n Yidir, Tafrara , Sol cec / Iṭij aderɣal, Jo soc l’estranger / Nekk d ajentaḍ
Salem Zenia is an Algerian journalist, writer and poet, and a Berber activist. He works for the Tamazight section of the regional newspaper Le pays/Tamurt. In 1998 he founded a biweekly newspaper, Racines/Iz’uran, aimed at the promotion of Berber literature. His activism led him to be one of the chief writers of the report on Culture and Artistic Development for the second seminar of the Berber Cultural Movement in 1989.
His literary work includes numerous journalistic pieces published in Algerian newspapers, including L’objectif démocratique, Awal, in addition to his first novel Tafrara (The Dawn): only the sixth novel to be published in its entirety in Berber. His most recent published titles are the novel L’arrel de la boira (The Root of Fog), published in 2014 by Lleonard Muntaner, with translation by Ricard Ripoll, and the Tamazight-Catalan poetry collection Jo soc l’estranger (I am the foreigner), published in Barcelona in 215 by Lapislàtzuli publishing house, with translation by Carles Castellanos. In collaboration with Carles Múrcia, he has published the Catalan-Tamazight / Tamazight-Catalan dictionary (Llibres de l’Índex, 2016) and participated in its digitisation.
In Paris in 2005, the Tamazight Association, an organisation for the defence and promotion of Berber culture and literature, awarded Zenia an Honorary Diploma in recognition of his body of work and his contribution to the development and diffusion of Tamazight literature. In Algeria, Salem Zenia was victim of a double persecution, by government authorities and by Islamist armed forces. A married father to two children, he decided to remain in Catalonia and has lived in Olot since 2014. He arrived in Catalonia in 2007 and was part of Catalan PEN’s Writers In Refuge programme until 2009, though continues working with the association on a regular basis.