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Algeria / France

France, récit d’une enfance (Sabine Wespieser, 2007)


Zahia Rahmani was born in Algeria in 1962. She draws inspiration for her writings on her own life experience. Two of her books have been especially hailed by the critics – Moze (in 2003) and Musulman (in 2005) a novel. Those books give an account of her first five years in Algeria, the Berber culture, and her education in France. Her latest book, France, récit d’une enfance is sort of the missing piece in the triptych. She heads a research program at the Institut national d’Histoire de l’art and often gives conferences on contemporary art and literature.

In french

Bibliography :

  • France, récit d’une enfance (Sabine Wespieser, 2007)

A short summary of France, récit d’une enfance :

People develop their imagination in the places where they were born. When, through adversity or war, they grow up away from their place of birth, people tend to try and imagine, even if just for a short period of time, just to forget what others thinks of them here, what their life would have been like had they not been forced to move away. Is writing in the first person not then the only solution ? Zahia Rahmani

The inspiration for this book is the writer’s ardent desire to tell her seriously ill mother everything she owes her. Nothing was simple about her childhood in France, in spite of the school, the village fetes, and the secret and joyful discovery of art and literature. The first five years in Algeria, the conflicts with her harki father, everyday racism, and rejection have profoundly marked first the young girl then the rebellious teenager. When the memories come back, they bring back with them the fear, the solitude, and the violence done her and her desire to escape. But the memories also remind the narrator of her appetite for life, her curiosity and wish to live in a society and if the girl has proven herself, if she has become an excellent pupil and been accepted by the neighbours, helping them cultivate their garden and sharing their life, it is thanks to her mother. Her mother is a person who has refused to assimilate, who only speaks Berber, frees caged animals and has done everything possible to transmit to her daughter pride in her origins, to make her understand that she is not a child without a past and without glory as French society would have her believe. She has her own family tree and is free to invent a new one as she belongs to her real family as well as that of the American heroes that have so influenced her and to the rural community here she grew up. If Zahia Rahmani looks into her own childhood, if she is paying such profoundly moving homage to her mother, her book is nonetheless a vibrant call against insidious violence, the sort that a whole society can carry on against its own children.