An Algerian Childhood
An Algerian Childhood comprises true stories by female and male novelists, poets, essayists, and journalists who, despite their current state of exile, hold an enduring sense of connection with Algeria. Included are poignant pieces by Mohammed Dib, Malek Alloula, and Nabile Farès, mainstays in the Algerian canon.
In “Bare Feet,” a deeply resonant story about a young girl’s search for place in a colonial society, famed feminist, theorist, and playwright Hélène Cixous recounts how, at the age of four, an encounter with a shoeshine boy awakened her to the harsh realities of her own class standing. In Albert Bensoussan’s haunting tale, “The Lost Child,” a boy is befriended by a young Muslim girl after he loses his mother in the marketplace on the eve of Rosh Hashanah. A child’s confusion engulfs this work as he struggles to decipher why, a few short years later, their regular play dates are suddenly brought to a halt and their relationship severed. Millecam, Pélégri, and Tengour offer narratives that highlight a history of natural disasters in Algeria, using images of floods, cyclones, and earthquakes as metaphors for the political climate of the country. Others use childhood memories to illuminate the anti-Semitism of the 1940s and the bloody ramifications of the massacre of Algerians demonstrating for independence. These autobiographical tales are essential reading for all who are fascinated by world politics and history, taken with postcolonial literature, or simply on the hunt for a read that will carry them through the familiarities of childhood and into experiences far beyond their own.
Leila Sebbar : Leila Sebbar was born in Algeria to an Algerian father and a French mother. She has published numerous essays, short stories, and novels, including the Sherazade trilogy and Silence on the shores (University of Nebraska Press, 2000). Sebbar is currently a teacher in Paris and has worked on diverse literary and French cultural reviews.