Saturday, August 15, 2015

Reading the World: 3. Algeria

Algeria, by Dana Kyndrova
Forgiveness can only ever be shared. Regret can only ever be owned.

What the Day Owes the Night, by Yasmina Khadra takes its place among the most meaningful novels I have read in a long while. The note on the first page of the novel, "Yasmina Khadra is the nom de plume of the Alergian army officer, Mohammed Moulessehoul, who took a female pseudonym to avoid submitting his manuscript for approval by the army" grasped my attention before I read the first line: "My father was happy."

What do I have to learn about that part of the world, of culture, of history and humanity?


And even after finishing the novel, I am really only aware of just how much I have to learn to and experience.

However, what strikes me immediately about this specific book and experience is that the writing is just a pure pleasure--especially the similes and metaphors (of which there are many):
The wheat fields billowed over the plains like the manes of thousands of horses galloping.

Oran was a city of airs and graces, people referred to her as la ville americaine, and every fantasy in the world was becoming real. Perched on a clifftop, she gazed out to sea, pretending to languish, a captive maiden watching from a tower for Prince Charming to arrive. She was pleasure itself, and everything suited her.

Beyond the writing, the reason why I took on the challenging of reading the world is on full display here. While the struggle for Algerian independence comprises the setting of the novel--I found myself researching as I read--the familiarity how the characters interact carries the day. By familiarity I mean irrespective of Arab or European, I recognized jealousy and love, fear and honor, prejudice and sorrow, et al. 

Being human is familiar.

I found myself wanting to talk to someone--anyone--about the struggles between Arabs and Europeans, the wealthy and the poor in countries just like Algeria, the roles of men and women in different societies, the fact that love and honor is not a privilege of race or culture, the unwieldy tangle of the word "duty"...duty to family...duty to culture...duty to is all here, woven together. 

So many moments of "duty" in the novel bring me back to the title What the Day Owes the Night again and again:
  • What does the father owe the family?
  • What does the mother owe the child?
  • What does the individual owe his/her culture?
  • What does the lover owe his/her lover?
We could get more specific:
  • What does Younes owe himself?
  • What does Younes owe Emilie?
  • What does Younes owe Madame Cazenave?
And my questions go on and on. These questions only scratch the surface as the book begs to be read and discussed. I'm dying to discuss it with someone--so, please, if you read this novel and you stumble upon this blog, please leave your thoughts about the book--I'm all ears (or eyes).

Finally, as bring the blog to a conclusion, I want to add how much I was affected by the balance in the novel. The author's gift and skill and being able to weave extended kindnesses among extensions of cruelty; oaths of silence with oaths of violence; and deep chasms of regret with micro-thin lifelines of forgiveness made everything else work together so well. 

I really loved the experience of reading What the Day Owes the Night because it had me thinking, has me thinking, and will continue to challenge me.

What do I (we) owe...

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