Another love in the “Land of others”

It all started in 1944, when Mathilde met Amine. The Moroccan regiment was stationed in the village of Alsacienne, a few kilometers from Mulhouse, and the young woman had served as a guide for the soldier who was waiting to leave for the East. Mathilde was not particularly pretty, very tall, taller than he, with broad shoulders and boy’s calves. But “Her eyes were green like the water in the fountains of Meknes, and she did not take her eyes off Amine.” The young woman was burning with envy for something else, besides, she was even burning all at once. “During the war, on evenings of desolation and sadness, Mathilde enjoyed herself in the icy bed of her bedroom, upstairs. When the alarm announcing the bombs sounded, when the roar of an airplane began to be heard, Mathilde ran, not for her survival, but to satisfy her desire. ” So, before this man with a full and strong body, she succumbed and quickly found herself some 25 kilometers from Meknes, Morocco, in the farm bequeathed to Amine by her father, Kadour Belhaj, former translator in the colonial army .

This is how Mathilde the Alsatian became Moroccan, struggling to find moments of celebration in the arid life that Amine offers her, between peeled earth and bulky family, between suspicious looks on her white skin that we associate to the colonists, and solitude weighed down with boredom. Very quickly, Aïcha will be born, savage thin as a grasshopper, then Selim, confit of love and cakes. Sources of comfort.

This woman, Mathilde, is the grandmother of Leïla Slimani, at least she looks like her because the author of Soft song, Prix ​​Goncourt 2016, set out to tell the family saga in the form of a large Franco-Moroccan fresco. And this first volume, written with breath and a great power of evocation, keeps its promises. Here we are. Subtitled “La guerre, la guerre, la guerre”, it covers ten crucial years for Morocco, between the end of the Second World War and the rise in tensions and fighting which led in 1956 to the independence of the former French protectorate . The war is one in which many Moroccans have participated on behalf of France, risking their lives for a country that will not be grateful to them. The war is that which the dominant and dominated will wage, to use a recent formula, and it is clear in this book that the resentment of Moroccans towards the settlers will quickly turn into anger. War is also the war that Mathilde will fight every day to herself to remain dignified in a country and a family that are falling apart. “As a teenager, Mathilde never thought that it was possible to be free on her own, it seemed unthinkable to her, because she was a woman, because she was uneducated, that her fate was not intimately linked to that of another. She had realized her mistake much too late and now that she had discernment and a little courage it had become impossible to leave. The children were her roots and she was attached to this land, despite herself. Without money, there was nowhere to go and she was dying of this dependence, this submission “, writes Leïla Slimani.

Mathilde will not give up either her dreams or her games, cutting garlands from old rags to brighten up Christmas Eve to the sound of muezzin, making dolls with tea towels and panty buttons. She will demand that Aïcha go to school, she wants her free and conquering, all that she cannot be because, for her, it is too late. Mathilde has made a choice, she must stick to it and she will stick to it, whatever it costs her. “How could she have admitted that the man she met during the war was no longer the same? Under the weight of worries and humiliations, Amine had changed and darkened. How many times had she felt, walking on her arm, the heavy gaze of passers-by? The touch of her skin seemed to her hot, unpleasant, and she couldn’t help but perceive, with a form of disgust, the strangeness of her husband. She told herself that it took a lot of love, more love than she felt capable of feeling, to endure the contempt of people. “It took a solid, immense, unshakeable love to endure shame when the French grasped him, when the police asked him for his papers, when they apologized when he noticed his war medals or his perfect command of the language.” Everything is said in this passage. Love, and war.


Alexandra Schwartzbrod

Leïla Slimani The Land of Others

Gallimard, 368 pp., € 20.

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Franco-Iranian researcher Fariba Adelkhah continues fight in prison

From the depths of her Evin prison, she resists. In order not to let the prison system of his country of origin, Iran, bring it down psychologically. Each fight undertaken by Fariba Adelkhah – a Franco-Iranian researcher arrested last June with his companion, researcher Roland Marchal – is a way of claiming that they are innocent of the charges brought against them: “Propaganda against the system” political of the Islamic Republic and “Collusion to endanger national security”.

→ READ. Researchers mobilize for Fariba Abdelkhah and Roland Marchal, hostages in Iran

Psychological resistance to the very peril of his life. Fariba Adelkhah has so far defeated what she called, in a letter to her support committee in France, the “Psychological torture” very strong interrogations to which she was subjected in November. Will she resist the consequences of the hardships she suffered from a hunger strike lasting more than 45 days, from the end of December to mid-February?

“His kidneys have been damaged”

Her friends and colleagues have not hidden their concern since they learned that she had been hospitalized on Sunday, February 23, in the medical unit of Evin prison. “ His kidneys have been damaged “, His state of health is” worrisome “Confided to Tehran his lawyer, Mr. Saïd Dehqan. Others also mention balance problems.

Fariba Adelkhah has no intention of being wiped out. This small, petite, soft-spoken woman, a trained anthropologist, fights several battles at the same time: she refuses to comply with the prison rules which require her to speak to her family through a window; since mid-January, she has refused to return to her cell, living and sleeping in the corridors on the floor, until she has been allowed to see her companion, also locked up in Evin.

And finally, she asserts by all means beyond the walls of her prison, her innocence and that of her companion. Friday February 21, when the legislative elections were held in Iran, she caused a scandal because the prison having lost her nationality certificate, she could not vote.

Exchange currencies

The battle is tough when it involves considerations other than the truth. Iran is no longer hiding that Fariba Adelkhah and Roland Marchal are, like other bi-national or foreign prisoners in this country, exchange currencies against Iranians detained in France and in Europe. One way to recognize that their charge sheet is empty.

→ READ. Hostages in Iran: the dilemmas of French negotiators

More than 5,000 kilometers away, one of his compatriots, Jalal Rohollahnejad, 41, arrested on his arrival in France on February 2, and the target of an American arrest warrant for attempts to export to Iran. computer equipment on behalf of a company belonging to the Guardians of the Revolution, awaits at the Luynes prison center.

He appealed to the Court of Cassation after French justice gave a favorable opinion on his extradition to the United States. The future of Fariba Adelkhah and Roland Marchal, whose trial before the revolutionary court will open Tuesday, March 3, in Tehran, may depend on this decision.

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