"The Poor Man's Son", the title of the novel, has two declarations, a declaration of sonship, and a declaration of poverty. The protagonist is born the same year the writer has been born, and in the same village, in
The declaration of sonship in the title makes us understand simply that the writer is in psychological peace with his father. His father the farmer there up in the mountains between the fig and olive trees.
From the first page he tells is in realism: "what is present in the areas of the Kabylie is almost present in everywhere", abandoning making his novel a myth, blowing it with heroism, drawing a magical halo around the mountain tip up there where the village is. Here is another two lines:
"We, the Kabylies, understand those who praise our area and like to hide its insipidity under the description of the praise yet we realize exactly the vile impression which our poor villages leave even on the sympathetic visitor." Page2
"But I admit that my aunt, Khalti, taught me who to dream and who to love to build a suitable world for me, a fabulous world that nobody but me can have access to." Page 70
One of his aunts, Nana, dies while she was trying to give birth to her first child. Her baby dies with her. She drags her baby with her to the cemetery in melancholy and mourning. His other aunt, the one who taught him dreaming, started to have a mental illness. A kind of psychosis. They were obliged to tie her in a room. She runs away. Force her back. Laughs and sings. Her eyes are lost in the no-place and the no-time when she is quite. Runs away again, but this time they don't ding her. They started to search the cadavers which go down from the tip of the mountain in the small stream, but no trace. They put an end to their search by the belief that she is dead and they practice lesser sadness.
"Childhood memories lack fineness and binding: we hold few valid images that the heart can always gather, one after the other when he remembers them,…."
The protagonist, Fouroulou Minrad, finished the primary school with success. There was no secondary school in the village nor near it. He won a grant to study in Tizi-Ouzou, exactly how is the case with the writer, Mouloud Feraoun. Still he was facing the problem of lodgment. Azir came to him, another poor student, and offer the solution: to live with him the coming four years in the Protestants missionary that lies in front of their school. This missionary was accepting the students who were coming from the mountains and provide them with electrified room, with a bed, a chair, and a table, and coffee and bread in the morning, and all for free. The students were gathered in the evening to be told about religion. They were "Les Peres Blanc". They didn't oblige the students to do anything special. Fouroulou and Azir were going to the meetings regularly, read a verse from the Torah like everybody, sing a recitation with diligence, hear the explanations, then go back to their room to resume their work without hesitation. The writer tells us that his protagonist had an inferiority complex at the beginning form other students in the missionary and in the school, and from the teachers too, but after relatively a short time he: "gave up his inferiority complex". Nobody saw them asking for explanations, about his point or that, regarding religion, nor they did ask the monk to say a prayer or an invocation for their sake. They slipped away.
What? I spoiled the chance of you enjoying reading the novel? But is that possible! Did I tell you about the rituals of harvesting and gathering figs and olives? Did I tell you about the secrets of making dishes and jars from mud? The traditions of marriage? The traditional therapies? The décor of the interior of their houses? The wool weaving? Or traditional childhood plays?
In this novel there are, if you may, exploits and tunes, the exploits and fig and olive, the melodies of mud and wool, and fissured hands from the excess of manual working, hands which time had didn't pass on without leaving a trace, hands closer to the nature, to the fig and olive there up in the mountain, hands nearer to the mud and wool.
Oh Mouloud Feraoun, how beautiful is your reciting, for it seems that your aunt who taught you how to dream then she was swallowed by her own dreams depth, had and will stay reciting an original Kabyle Amazigh melody, as old as the mountain, up there in the highs.