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To Live and Die in Algeria

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

December 11th–As I write two roadside bombers struck in the city of Algiers, a major metropolis and capital of Algeria in Northwest Africa. The targets seemed have been two U.N (United Nations) buildings in that metropolitan area. The perpetrators were the Al’Quaida of the Maghreb (a large mainly Arab Muslim expanse — that contains Mauritania, [former Spanish] Sahara, Algeria, Libya and Morocco).

The two bombers missed their two larger targets, but instead an estimated 67 innocent civilians were slaughtered. Further, what is extremely frightening in last week’s incidents were that this Maghreb terrain had to fight through two vicious Wars within most of the Twentieth Century! The first was its victorious rebellion from France (1954-1962) where a total of one and half million Frenchman died while the leading Algerian political parties suffered one half million North Africans to free themselves from their Gallic Masters, too! The second War involved the (Arab) government against the Islamists during the 1990s.

Boualem Sansal is one of the most important contemporary Algerian writers. I was able to converse succinctly in French with him about a year and a half ago, but I felt his comments were too slight to make an article from them until the events of today.
I adapted this brief biography from the German introduction for the Literature Festival (Berlin) in 2005. Sansal is a native born (1949) Algerian. After his doctorate, he landed a job as a high-ranking bureaucrat.

He withdrew from his promising career into a state of inner exile that left him space to write. His first book won the prestigious French award, the Prix du Priemer Roman. Further, Later in his career he was awarded the Michael Dard Literature Award (2002).
In subsequent novels his themes revolved around politically charged activities including terrorism, corruption, oppression and Islam!

He is attempting to build a sense of national identity in a 45 year-old country – especially with the young! Curiously in his native Algiers he is considered as a detrimental gadfly, while in Paris, he is deemed as a great innovator. Although he finds himself often having to publish with a pseudo-name, he has chosen to reside at home in his native land. He is an artist that looks positively forward to a bright future for his nation!

Algeria is a territory that has been fought over since Roman times. In the Twentieth Century, there have two particularly brutal Wars as aforementioned! The Revolution from France, and the Civil War between the Secularists and the Islamists. The paradigm for the post-Colonial State has always been Islamic, but right after the success of the independent nation, Nasserite Arab Socialist elements crept into the concept of governance. This overwhelming Nationalism put the Berber minority into an inferior position as well.

The renewal of terrorist violence has put citizens of the country in fear of the renewal of the Civil War between the Left of Center government and the Islamists – (essentially Rightists!)

“Algeria has a pathology to its history…Conflict is part of its chronological pattern…our history [is] actually housed outside the Maghreb [i.e., in France]…”

He concluded I’ve lost many of my family and friends. Algerians do not wish to fall back into the violence of the past century.


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