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Paris-Algiers, Underground Class

by Mustapha Benfodil 

It’s romance landed me this job. I am a mailman of love. Yes. Let’s call it that. A mailman of love. I deliver sweet missives from one end of the village to the other. I am the memory of sweetness; I am the Amorous Conscience of the village.

The kids here call me aderwiche. The dervish. A variant of “crazy,” ameslouv, the “nut.”

I am screwed up three ways: deaf, mute and blind. So they’ve given me a name to match: Lounès Goes-Anywhere-He-Pleases. They know I don’t hear anything, can’t see nada, repeat nary a word. And so my time is spent delivering love letters from one house, one mouth, to another: I never dine at the same table two nights in a row. Mind, this is not a matter of kindness: it’s not the charity of my hosts makes me what I am. They’re convinced luck – baraka in some form or other – lives in me. Assholes. I’m sealed up from everywhere, it’s not like they can’t see, yet they persist in hoping my status as a holy man will help them ward off the evil eye, protect them from evil spirits, an evil fate. All the sun wasted in these parts, I can’t glean light enough to see so much as the shadow of a silhouette of a bloody mountain, and it’s me they look to!

I owe my holy status to my grandmother. This baraka they claim attaches to me came in a jolt so powerful, it seems, I shot out of my mother’s innards fried but good, three senses out of five shot to hell. I compensated with touch and smell. All I have to do is run my hand over an object to know its deepest secrets – how I’ve no idea, but there it is. From the topmost peak of Lalla Khadidja, I smell the fisheries of Algiers. Catch the scent of couscous cooking in the farthest reaches of Numidia. Yes. I am quite the nose. And a seer, too. There’s a real future in it for me, should I choose. Dumb-asses think I can’t decipher their messages… Not a whisper escapes me, no matter how soft. I read on top of their lines, between their lines, through their lines, into the darkest recesses of their signs.

My grandmother is the guardian of the village mausoleum. My great grand-father offi ciated there once; he was the patron of our extended family, our arch we call it, saw to its well-being at the hands of the Divine. He’s up to it still, doing his damage best. In a state of advanced decay – a myth, a relic.

I’m all my grand-mother has to materialize the miracles of my long-lost ancestor, be they real or imagined – Sidi Bahloul was his name, Ahmed El Ghobrini Sidi Bahloul Ben Assem to say it in full.

No lofty inheritance there. This is what I’m reduced to: flitting from house to house and granary to barn, spreading the red heat of hearts aflame, the sighs of boys yet-to-get-laid and sweet little things feeling the first flutters of the heart. Hearts all nice and warm, hot off the passion assembly line.

Yes. I am Lounès Goes-Anywhere-He-Pleases. The only guy in the village who can get to the girls, all the way into their bedrooms. Convinced I know nothing of their cluck-cluck cries, playing games with themselves between the sheets; in the bath or trying on dress after dress to ready themselves for a dance, giggling nasty thoughts. The air, my companion and accomplice, carries me to the wind under their wide robes, light and bright with colored streaks, to the very twitching of their breasts.

I owe their blind trust, thus (hardly a point of honor for me) to the multiple failure of my senses. It’s a burden, you’ll agree, that calls for the utmost discretion. Imagine the mess if one of these little secrets were to make its way into the public realm – into the village meeting hall, say… The victim, he or she, would be the laughing stock of the arch. To say nothing of the opprobrium that would follow. Never have I broken a ladylover’s confidence, told the secret of a boy-lover in waiting, hinted at so much as the existence of these shadow lovers. Though I myself have no access to such graces – no messing around for me – oddly, I feel no dissatisfaction; to the contrary: my “profession” leaves me with the happy feeling that I am a bridge, a walkway between continents alight.

My failures have spawned a proverb: Lounès yetchen ilssis yerna thitis, “Lounès, the boy who ate his tongue and eyes.” Me, I’ve heard another take on the story. It’s not I who ate my tongue, my ears and eyes. My grand-mother calls me Dhaoussou Lajdhoudh, “Curse of the Ancestors.” Truth be told, it’s her daughter she has in mind – my biological mother, whom, by the way, I never met – when she pronounces this name. Yaya – grandma in Berber – says that when she retrieved me I was a hair’s breadth from heading back to the void that’d just hatched me, larva, tadpole, chrysalis I, you choose the bag. “You did not come into the world, the world came to fetch you,” she liked to say as she was changing my nappies. One day, sick and convinced death was at her door, she decided, at long last, to tell me the secret of my condition – why, on top of being born minus the three senses needed to perceive life in all its beauty and filth, I have neither mother nor father, sister nor brother.

Yaya says I was picked out of the garbage, where I’d been discarded like a lousy alley cat. This though my mother had committed no fault. Better, she was the village icon. Not only because she was beautiful, no doubt the most beautiful, but also because she was gutsy, feisty and one hell of a thorn in France’s backside. So much that songs were composed in her honor and are now part of the local martyr repertory.

According to my grandmother, I am the product of an illicit screw between a gang rape and the marvel that was my mother. My mother wanted to kill herself afterwards. But France had locked her up in a cell, tied up to a metal bed frame, a gag in her mouth, another in her nether spots, electric wires everywhere, light shining night and day into her beautiful eyes and a clock seared into her memory to count the minutes she had left to live. This lasted seven months.

One day, she managed to shit me out with rest of her shit, that’s how bad it felt to hold inside her the crap that was me. I came out to the sound of her last cry. They thought I was stillborn and threw me on a trash heap. The military doctor, Yaya says, had ordered me incinerated so the dogs that would eat me wouldn’t catch Revolution fever.

On that day, my grand-mother had gone to the village mausoleum, to pray in secret over my mother’s remains and make a wish. Her prayers were rejected by the saints and their spirits both. Her wish had been that the creature born of her daughter be chewed up by the village dogs. She hadn’t fi nished her prayer that a dog with eyes like it’d been hypnotized showed up at the mausoleum door, me and my placenta dangling from its teeth. My grandmother all but made a sign of the cross before mumbling a prayer in Esperanto, she who didn’t know word one of the Koran, babbling away verse after verse of the Sainted Book, in Kabyle no less. Whereupon she swore to devote herself to me: the miracle of my arrival, she had decided, was the sign, obvious and amazing, that Sidi Bahloul himself had designated me his protégé.

My poor grand-mother had just lost the last of her many offspring. My mother was her only daughter. Yaya had had seven sons. Every last one dead. Taken out in the bloody match between France and the FLN.♣  When the seventh of her sons was killed, her daughter swore vengeance. She’d turned the entire Muslim Brotherhood against the French army, which in turn had brought a huge missile crashing down onto the village mosque, scattering it to the winds.

Yaya had seven grandsons, excepting me. A son from each son. All were done in by the government in 1963, during the first Kabyle uprising – those days in which women sang “Sabâa s’nine barakat!”: “Seven years is enough!”

Since then, she has practically no one.

“Practically” means me.

My grand-mother keeps a loom. She weaves the future, reveals it to others. I am her spokesperson, I Lounès the Dumb-and-Deaf.

Fate is a fart!

I don’t know whether, from a medical or legal point of view, the village saint, my grand-mother and the wild dogs did well to keep me alive, but there it is: I am … years old and still breathing, short of words and music aye. But it doesn’t matter. My mother’s lullabies still haunt my inner ear every time I turn my mind off to sleep.

My mother.
So brave.
So brief…

Ever since that motherfucker Makhlouf bought a PC and a password, things have gone haywire for me. Just like that, I was thrown aside, robbed of my powers, tossed from my job, dispossessed of my rights. Soon, even old lady Na Taoswill find religion in the Net. The imam himself knows now the mysteries of the Web.

Makhlouf. Broad-band boob.

Straw for the camel’s back: my very own grand-mother is surfing.

In her mind, there’s no doubt, the Internet is but a variation on the spirit of saints and computers run on baraka. In the end, the entire mausoleum got itself hooked up to Makhlouf’s bloody server. As a result of this cyber-crap, no one calls on me anymore to deliver love letters. Tired of scaling blind walls, the village’s lovers-in-waiting make eyes at the screen, blinking in its blue light. They exhaust their days in a vain quest to meet Kabyle ladies online, in Montreal or the Mound of Venus.

I, meanwhile, go nowhere, have no more love stories to tell myself, no naughty tales or sweet diversions to occupy my mind. The Berlin wall has been built up, all over again, around my blocked-off horizon. Blinding. My heart, I know this now, pumps to the beat of the love that travels through my veins before it leaves me to shine its light on the lovers of my tribe.

Ever since Makhlouf-the-Broad-Band-Boob opened his retirement home for the young – the village cybercafé, I mean, Cyberberber he calls it – everything, but everything, is going to hell! If only he brewed good coffee. All he serves up is cat’s piss. And his herd of PCs has just about as much brains as the village idiot.

Makhlouf got himself canonized Son of Chahid – hero’s offspring, son of a martyr of the Algerian war. Him! Though no one knows what glorious deeds his father is supposed to have done. Two witnesses were produced to verify his right to the title. True or false? Hard to say. The witnesses swore his father died in 1957, during a rebel onslaught on French troops. That’s all. Now we have to live with it: Cyberberber Makhlouf, horse’s ass, is the object of all attentions. As if the village, this damn hole-in-the-wall, were lacking in heroes, as if it hadn’t produced enough kamikazes between 1954 and 1962… Now we go looking for them in the forest of lies!

In my village, a Son of Chadid is entitled to anything he wants. Any license he can think of: a license to import cars, to start a gang of thieves, to open a whore-house or export olive oil (100% Berberica, goes without saying)…

So I left the love letters to Makhlouf the Pornocrat (as a child, he’d opened a stall in the family stables where, for 500 dourous – 5 cents or so – you could check dirty videos produced for the young and hard) and took to selling peanuts in a bordello, sorry – a hostel.

Not that my choice of words is completely off: by night, the  place got down to business best left unspoken during daylight hours. I’m not talking about the meows of little pussies. No. The kinds of intrigues that get plotted between rushes of sexdrive fever. I may be blind, deaf and dumb, but that doesn’t stop me from brushing up against walls, which themselves have ears and faithfully report to me the softest whispers of things forbidden.

One day, Paris brushed by me; a girl with long legs, the slimmest ankles and fresh, fresh lips. In my mind’s eye, she was slight and tall, like a falaqa stick. No doubt, they like their waists narrow over-yonder-where-our-men-go. I swear they don’t feed the girls over there in Paris-la-Wild, where the sun forgets to set and nobody goes to bed without taking a dozen sleeping pills first, post salsa with the moon on the banks of the Seine. Needless to say, I’ve never set foot in Paris (“Perry,” as my grand-mother puts it in her inimitable way. You have to lower the sound of the P and tilt it slightly. And roll the R of course!) It’s Sabrina told me all this. Beautiful, slight
Sabrina, who, when she walks by, leaves in her wake a trail of flannel soaked in Coco Chanel.

Sabrina, Sabrina / I love you, I loooooooove you, Sabrina…, sings the great Amazigh, Amazigh Kateb if you must know his full name…

Ever since Sabrina showed up in our village, the boys speak of nothing but her, have eyes for nothing but her legs. If the walls and their ears are to be trusted, she’s been here several days, and she hasn’t come on vacation, not like those “emigrettes” who, every summer, leave us drenched in wet dreams. No. She’s come, it seems, on a very serious matter.

A matter that makes me dizzy.

I was leaning against Sabrina’s wall, sitting under her window, which opens onto the future, when the wall sent words my way, straight from the privacy of a diary: “Ah! If only I were buried in …, among my own people! What a miserable death awaits me in exile! No cemetery will grant my soul peace as would the graveyard of my ancestors! Hell, nothing but hell, awaits me when the Almighty calls. Woe is me, M’Hand the Traitor!”♣

Yes. It was a lost leaf, fallen from the Tree of Family Secrets. One evening, the Eiffel Tower appeared before me. I was waving my hand through the air and my fingers grazed the most beautiful legs a blind man dare ever hope caress. Simple: a touch of those sweet ankles,  those slight calves, and I was off to India, swimming in the Ganges, and back in a single flick of the digits. Sabrina let me go at it a few seconds – time enough for my trip – then called me to order in a voice whose purr none but my heart heard: “If you behave like that with all of your lady clients, you’ll be eating your nuts alone!”

Peanuts. Pee in my silent passion. The bums, brawling and burping in their drink, bought whole loads off me every day. Enough to make me a millionaire. Bar food for the high and hard. Their largess was nothing compared to Sabrina’s growl.

From that day on, every evening before heading home, Sabrina dropped by to buy a pack of peanuts from me.

One day, I dared. Not to touch her legs, lord no. I dared, simply, to ask her a question that left her – say it – dumb: “What did your father die of?” I queried, in Braille, a language she babbles in – a few words here and there – on days she’s in the dark. Like that day…

Deaf. Dumb. Blind. And I had just asked the right question. The sixty-four thousand dollar question.

Sabrina was dumbstruck. She bought ten packs of peanuts from me, in one fell swoop, and passed them out to all about.

I didn’t tell her how I’d found out about her father’s last wishes. I only revealed to her that he had died of sorrow.

Since that day, Sabrina drops by regularly to tell me how the “negotiations” are going with the village higher-ups.

As it turned out, Sabrina had stumbled on her father’s diary when going through a package sent to her without a return address. In the diary, she had come across the sad lines – the last wishes I’d heard – written by M’Hand the Traitor.

All of the old folks in the village were familiar with M’Hand the Traitor. Every last one of them had a personal tale to tell of crossing paths with him. My grand-mother too. He’d been there, preening, at the death of each of her seven sons and at my mother’s too.

The young folks in the village were less and less concerned  with Sabrina’s legs and more and more interested in the whispers, the rumors. The thing they were talking about was her head. They wanted to chop it off. But there were always two policemen with Sabrina, escorting her to ensure her well-being.

Because, you see, Sabrina was officially French and, like all Frogs, wherever in the world she might happen to be, she was entitled to her fill of liberty and well-being.

The old folks who had been tortured on account of M’Hand the Traitor had every reason to be discourteous with her. The young folks, who had nothing in particular to hold against Sabrina, had an axe to grind with the cops.

As was bound to happen, Sabrina paid for the cops. Or the cops for Sabrina.

Several people were wounded that day. Even Martyrs’ Square was vandalized and the hostel, bar and mosque were burned to the ground. When it was all over, the firebugs realized that there wasn’t so much as a stool left to sit on. And so we started all over again. Was it right for Sabrina to show up in the village? Was it right for the cops to escort her? Was is right for France to send us her stooges’ bones?

Sabrina’s stay turned hellish.

So bad, in fact, that one day, panicked, she sought refuge with me. For in extreme situations, it is written, you seek out Lounès the Sage, the Nut, great-grandson of Wali Salih Sidi Bahloul Ben Assem, God’s Companion.

The only building that had made it through the rampage untouched was the mausoleum. It alone had managed to claim diplomatic immunity.

From that day on, Sabrina lived hidden in the mausoleum, waiting for the day when she could reach an agreement with the tormented memory of my – her (?) – village.

Yaya does not know about Sabrina. That she stayed there. That I harbored her in the mausoleum, the very one my grandmother comes to daily to pray for one or another of her sons, disappeared, kidnapped, tortured, sodomized, shot dead before a cluster of miserable cowards, to the sound of snickers from M’Hand Whoever-the-Fuck-He-Was…

To think the remains of my seven uncles were buried in there. And my mother alongside. Every one of them served up to the enemy by M’Hand the Traitor, father of my … protégée.

One night, my mother’s spirit paid Sabrina a visit. Sabrina was shocked to learn that her father had snitched on my mother and, with his own hands, thrown me to the dogs. The Eiffel Tower’s very own Papa.

My mother’s ghost did not find it necessary to scare Sabrina. Nor to turn me against her…

I decided to help Sabrina bury her father among his people. Since my own father was a gang rape, it’s easy to see how the concept of fatherhood might escape me. She, on the other hand, was making herself sick over the whole thing. The last time I touched her ankles, they were as swollen as fat Ferroudja’s ankles. In Paris, mushy ankles are a sign that things are defi nitely not going well. Sabrina was downing a lot of chocolate and, in the process, she nearly added 200 grams to my frame. One day, she sidled up to me. I could smell her perfume coming closer, closer, and my heart was going thump-thump, thump-thump. Down under, you can guess what was up. Wallah! It’s not like she’s all that hot… In our neck of the woods, ayavava, aqarqour n’Ferroudja! Ferroudja’s ass: woa lord! Dhakhassar! Daaamn! You cream yourself just thinking about it. Tits big like that. Arms like so. Lips, cheeks, red like watermelons. Sabrina? None of that. I had a boner going out of courtesy. Mind, she was French – doesn’t happen every day, you know? Such an honor – moi?

I fell asleep dreaming she was raping me with my full consent, condoms and all. When I woke up, my ancestor’s ass (of the donkey variety) was braying at the door of the mausoleum. He too brays in Braille. My grand-mother grabbed a cockerel and went off to slaughter it to the glory of Sidi Bahloul. All of which put me in mind of the feast of Achoura and, by the by, of Aid El-Kebir.

I hate the feast of Aid El-Kebir. Not because I am vegetarian.

Because it’s filthy.

Because it’s blood.

It stinks of shit all day long, terrified beasties crapping in their undies; in their wool, I should say.

Projective memories - Adidal Abou-Chamat

And so it was that, for the first time in the annals of Passion, lady luck smiled upon me, wearing a simple tee-shirt and a pair of cut-offs. With a cute little Frenchie smile, no makeup, no mayo.

Now it’s time to pay the piper. Sabrina wants me to be her rep before the village, all of it. Me, Lounès, blind, deaf and dumb. Atakhna!

On the mausoleum’s PC, Sabrina wrote things for me to read, which I’d run my hand over the screen to decipher. A simple run of the hand, again, over the keyboard this time, and my thoughts appeared, faithfully rendered, on the screen. Sabrina was amused.

– Sabrina, Sabrina / I love you, I loooooooooooove you, Sabrina…
– Lord! Not you too, now!
– You don’t like the song?
– Can’t stand Kateb Yacine.
– Why?
– Because he wouldn’t have forgiven my father. And I’ve met Amazigh. He’s even worse than his father.
-That bad?
– Deadly!

Silence.

– How do you call that stuff you put on your hair, a red die with a heady scent?
– Henna? What, you want to become a red-head? I thought you were a khaki girl.
– Think this thing is gonna happen?
– I don’t think at all.
– I know how it goes: no forgiveness for traitors. But he’s dead, goddamnit! He’s been dead and buried for ten years. Me, I just want to ship his bones back.
– “Just”…
– You gonna help me or not?
– Not.
– OK.

(Fuck! She’s starting to get on my nerves).

– What you thinking about?
– Kateb Yacine.
– Still! Got anything more useful?
– I’m thinking.
– That’s better! So?
– I should go see Da Mokrane. Maybe he can help you…
– Da Who?
– He’s the village drunk. The only wino allowed into the mosque – even to pray. One Friday, the imam let him give the sermon. Every other word, he took a swig.
– And he hasn’t been lynched yet?
– Not yet.
– That man musta done some serious shit.
– Dunno. They say lots of things about him.
– Think he can help me?
– I don’t think. But he does.

Da Mokrane welcomed me as he always does, his mouth laced with a bubbly tirade of burps and insane ideas. The same ideas he’s been repeating since god knows when. With Da Mokrane, it’s hand communication we use. I write things on his calloused palm and he understands right away what it is I’m saying.

“Fatigued,” I wrote. No. Sorry. “Fateful.” “You’re nuts!” he wrote back, then gave his bottle a long kiss and took my arm.

Da Mokrane was absolutely opposed to meeting Sabrina. He did, however, say a word or two on her behalf to the head prosecutor at Tizi-Ouzou, with whom he is well acquainted. The prosecutor too was taken aback: “You! Defend the memory of M’Hand the Traitor! After what he did to you! No doubt: you’re senile. Time to divorce the bottle if you don’t want to end up in AA,” the prosecutor said. So the walls of the tribunal told me.

– It’s not that piece of shit I’m doing it for. It’s Lounès. His mother saved my life. The whole village’s in fact. I can’t say no to him, even if it means getting in bed with a bastard traitor!

– Give the NOM♣ a try. Mujaheddin Central. It’s wall to wall traitors over there. 80% of the fuckers are fakes. Shhh! You didn’t hear it from me…

On the way to the seaside, she was all questions. I couldn’t hear shit, of course, but she’d write things on my pocket PC, a little jewel that thing, barely the size of a wallet.

They let you smoke on this bus? Why are those girls veiled? Why’s that asshole checking my thighs? Why can’t women rent a room on their own, travel on their own, fuck on their own?..

Why this?
Why that?
Why?…

– What next?! OK, we’ve got the plague, but it ain’t the Middle Ages! Shit! So I answered her one day, when the weather wasn’t so good in my head.

Algiers at last! Pollution. Honking horns. Heat. Peoplepeoplepeople. Château-Neuf, Ministry of the Mujaheddin. We have an appointment with Samir at 2:00 PM. Cousin to Cyberberber Makhlouf, thanks to whom the dumb-dumb got his business license … his Son of a Martyr’s card, I mean.

It’s 1000 euros for the meeting, Makhlouf explained, 5000 for the fake witnesses and 10,000 euros to get the official papers

The official papers: nothing more sacred, in the Demagogical and Popular Republic of Algeria, than those papers… Documenting the fact that “X” played a part in the book of glories that was our war for Independence. A must if you’re running for public office – if you were of age in 1954 to fuck with France’s plans, that is.

– Have a seat, Mademoiselle. Tea? Coffee?
– Just a glass of water, please. May I smoke?
– Please.

Samir gave her water and a light. Sabrina let all hell loose inside him. Samir comes from a place called Ifri Ouzellaguène. A village perched over the valley of Soummam. There, a congress had been planned, headed by one Abane, a political leader who met his death, strangled, in an abandoned hangar on December 27 1957. Samir’s brother was killed during the second Kabyle uprising, the “Black Spring” (April 18 2001-June 12 2003).

Samir knows the password to hack into the Ministry’s database, the one with two columns, one for heroes, one for traitors and persons banned. With a simple click of the keyboard, he moved M’Hand the Traitor’s name from one side to the other. And so, miracle of the computer age, a stooge was washed of his evil deeds and made an “icon.”

Two village witnesses went to the prosecutor and swore on the heads of two beers and an envelope stuffed with 2000 euros that the traitor in question had been the victim of a plot hatched at a time when the FLN could no longer tell who was friend and who was foe. “True, he was a card-carrying member of the MNA,♣ top of the line if you happened to be fighting against the FLN. At the time, though, it wasn’t easy to decide which side you were on. Few people believed in the future of the Revolution…”

At the last minute, there was a disagreement concerning the bones and their return. A referendum was organized. The old folks voted yes. The young folks voted no, to the tune of “ulac smah ulac”: “No forgiveness!”

Par for the course: rebels always vote no.

So Sabrina had to wait for the young folks to grow a little older to ship back the bones.

In the end, I joined Makhlouf’s Cyberberber. The village had suddenly reverted to its original calm. The least learned were learning English and now knew their civic – even their political – rights by heart. They got into chat rooms where they could talk about anything they wanted. The kids were aging fast. The luckiest in the bunch were getting married overnight, doing it virtual-style, making kids over the wires and obtaining legit papers. To export themselves.

Sabrina flew a gaggle back in to lower the “No” vote. And M’Hand the traitor was buried in the village, after Sabrina put a mess of entrenched nay-sayers on the plane to Paris, causing a conniption over at French immigration.

And so the Paris arch was born. Made its way into the Rough Guide, too. Even the old folks want to book now. They don’t have it in them anymore to pontificate about the role traitors played in the proliferation of crimes against humanity and the sale of bottled goods post Evian.♥ The toughest ones are left with a bitter aftertaste.

Heavy words.
– Look what the Heroes of the Revolution have done to Algeria!

Dear Sabrina,
Today, at mosque, they called your father a nut for making that last wish. And since they’re all nuts here, each in his own way, what they were saying, basically, is that your father is one of theirs – just like that. You too, of course, should you decide to die – not for this country, but in this country…

Da Mokrane says to tell you: “For God’s sake, bury my bones in Paris!”

 

 

Notes:
♣ National Liberation Front (FLN). Party that fought to rid Algeria of the French from 1954 to 1962 and came to power at independence in ’62. The Kabyle region, home to the author and site of the tale he tells, was one of its strongholds and remains a hotbed of political dissent.

♣ In French, Sabrina’s father is named M’Hand le Harki. During the war of independence, Algerians who fought for the French against the FLN were known as Harkis. Along with pieds-noirs, French citizens born in Algeria, the majority of whom sided with the colonialists, they were despised. At independence, 1.5 million harkis and pieds-noirs fl ed into exile in France. While the latter managed to make a place for themselves in Paris and the French provinces, the former were left to rot in roadside camps. To this day, they and their descendants remain third-class citizens; they continue to live in abysmal conditions, abhorred by French and Algerians alike.

♣ National Organization of Mujaheddins (ONM). Powerful syndicate of ex-rebels who fought the French invasion.

♣ National Movement for Algeria (MNA). Pro-French organization founded by Messali Hadj in 1955 to fight the FLN.

♥ Reference to the Evian accords, which put an end to French colonization in Algeria. And to Evian water, of course, which has colonized the ex-colonies.

 

Mustapha Benfodil is a journalist and a writer. His novel Les Bavardages du Seul was voted the best Algerian novel of 2003. This story, from Les Belles Etrangeres, a collection of short stories, was translated from the French by Dominique Malaquais and is also available as part of Chimurenga Vol.6: Orphans of Fanon. Artwork is from “Projective memories (Frantz Fanon, Josephine Baker)”, by Adidal Abou-Chamat. 

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