There they are, all three sitting a few meters from each other. Yema, the grandmother, colorful scarf on her hair, busy at a kitchen table, married at 14 and mother a year later. Ali, the grandfather, immobile, solid and dark silhouette from behind, born “in the bean season”, in the spring of 1953 in Algeria. And in front, Naïma, the granddaughter, on the ground and in tune with the times, leaning over a screen which shows the burning images of the attacks. With a gesture she closes it, stands up, talkative and fragile. His body unfolds, undulates. She dances.
It is she who tells and makes Alice Zeniter’s words vibrate. A father’s promise to one day see the lost country, which was shattered by other violence, that of the dark decade in Algeria. The silence of a father, always short of memories. “As if my father confused integration with scorched earth politics. » Before him, the silence of a Harki grandfather, barely lifted at the end of his life. “Maybe he finally finds the freedom to scream that he can’t stand anything, neither what happened to him nor this place he arrived. »
Sabrina Kouroughli signs a radical and successful production
Where the novel offered a vast fresco over three generations, Sabrina Kouroughli made the choice – radical and successful – to portray these three characters alone for a little over an hour and to follow the quest of Naïma, whom she embodies, sparkling and moving. A high-risk quest – how to replace a lost country with a real country, worries the young woman who, on a map, tries to feel its contours under her fingers. On Naïma’s face, the lightness often competes with the heaviness of absence. “I never thought that my grandfather’s silence was a lack, but now it seems to me like a hole inside my body – not a wound but a hole inside my body. »
It is she who, through the power of words and smiles, joins her ancestors, stammering a language that no one taught her, probing these so distant lives, laughing at the biscuits that have become symbols of integration, or at the first name “Claude » recommended by the French administration, laughable intruder in the siblings of Hamid, Kader and Dalila. Under her tender questions, Yema – mischievous Fatima Aïbout – comes alive, remembers and will begin to sing, at the very end. “I lost two cities, beautiful cities. And, larger/Kingdoms, two rivers, a whole country/I miss them, it’s not a disaster. »
The drama of the harkis
Later, Ali’s voice rises in turn, rare and jerky. She talks about the Joffre camp in the south of France – also called the Rivesaltes camp – and then the move to Normandy. Brings nightmares, the harshness of exile and the drama of the harkis. “I never said I was for the French and I never touched a gun. I was asked who the families of the ridge were, and I answered. I said: so-and-so is so-and-so’s cousin. But everyone knew that. » Issam Rachyq-Ahrad is moving when he delivers these few words saved from silence.
But, and this is the finesse of the staging, the humor often makes the tragedy give way, like the movement, of speech and bodies, printed by Naïma. And watching her reweave this story, painful but still alive, we say with her grandmother Yema that the loss may not be a disaster.