Monday, July 30, 2012

History of a Land, from a subjective point of view

The protagonist in Rachid Boudjedra’s novel “Le Démantèlement, Denoël, 1982” was an ex-communist and participated in the war of independence of Algeria. He was having a disease and a young female used to pass by his lodgment to just offer the little help that she can to this old lonely man. He started to talk to her about his memories of the war. She asked him questions about the color of the eyes of his compatriots. About the way they walk, eat, and talk. She showed less interest in what the old man regarded as “history”. She wanted to see the history of her Algeria from another point of view, a subjective point of view.
 I reached Algeria in the 4th of July. I reached home when I met my family and we talked till late at night. When I woke up the next morning I went walking to buy El-Watan, my preferred journal and they gave me with it a free supplement. It is the 5th of July, the 50th anniversary of the Independence Day of Algeria. I liked the most the photo of the old lady in the cover since it tells much to me. Blame my lethargy or my poor French language abilities, I didn’t read the supplements, but I gathered them, day by day, and contemplated the photos.
I preferred to re-read Tahar Djaout’s “Les Cheurcheurs D’Os” since I got it in French and in its translation to Arabic by Jilaly Khallas so that I can compare the two texts and enjoy learning French and Arabic in a comparative way.

The protagonist of Djaout’s novel is 14 year of old. Never left his small village before. The novel starts at the day on independence when the people are still celebrating. At the same time they decided that they should bring back the bodies of their sons, the martyrs, who joined the mountains and held the arms against the French army. The unnamed protagonist had an older brother who had joined the mountains and never came back since about two years. The parents asked our 14 years old protagonist to go, like the others, and bring back the bones of the martyrs of their relatives.
Our protagonist was not convinced of the validity of the idea. They chose an older relative of him named Rabah to accompany him. A neighbor offered one of his donkeys to help them in their travel. The travel lasted days. Most of the time they were silent. The novel tells about the protagonist’s remembering his memories with his friend in the old days while he was silently accompanying Rabah, not convinced of the mission given to him.
He discovers the villages around their area and few cities. He drinks gaseous juices for the first time in his life. And saw people with clean clothes and many cars and he felt ashamed of his own clothes and of their accompanying donkey. 
They finally met someone who seemed to know the place where his old brother was buried. He took them to the place and they started digging. The first skeleton found was having a golden tooth. They reburied that skeleton and went to another place and started digging and the second skeleton was of an animal, might be a dog.
Our protagonist’s bitterness and sarcasm reached a peak that he agreed that they continue and he accepted to take the third skeleton in his bag and the journey of return to the village was tasteless and absurd. Our protagonist reached a conclusion that that only living being in his village that now he is re-entering is the donkey that accompanied them.

I think the novel was not translated to English since I failed to find any hint in the internet about how to write its title in English.
I started a second novel and that was of Mouloud Ferraou, entitled “La Terre et le Sang” since I have it in both languages: French and Arab. I was surprised to find that it was translated to English by Patricia Geesy and entitled: "Land and Blood”

Days later I started another search about “Les Chercheurs D’Os” and I found an article in English that I can read freely via the net and it was written by the same person who translated Mouloud Ferroun’s “Le Terre et le Sang”, Patricia Geesy. I would choose the following line from the article that I liked a lot:

“ His (Tahar Djaout) writings does not present a narrative transcription of the factual history. It seeks rather, to establish intertextual link with other discourses of history, conscious of the fact that, as Roland Barthes has noted, historical discourse cannot follow or create reality itself, it can only “present itself as a sign of a dead thing”.

The link of the article:

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