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This review is taken from PN Review 60, Volume 14 Number 4, March - April 1988.

LOVE AND JUSTICE Djanet Lachmet, Lallia, translated by Judith Still (Carcanet) £9.95

This short and deeply moving first novel by a young Algerian woman took me along way from home. I entered a consciousness for whom the words 'chaked', 'gandouras', 'mardoud', 'sarouel', 'djaoui', 'seppa', 'fouta' are as transparent as 'Wednesday', 'potatoes' and 'election' are to me. This is an Algeria talking to itself rather than, as in Gide and even Camus, addressed to Europe. For the narrator is a woman and the point of view is mainly that of her pre-adult self. If the condition of the tourist has an antipodes, it must be that of the female native child.

And yet many of the events in this alien territory grip the attention precisely because of their familiarity. Barthes has taught us to be suspicious of the sentimentalizing universalization of human experience, of the idea of the Great Family of Man. But reflection on our own experience may teach us to be suspicious of Barthes. For I found my own childhood in this novel: the intense loves of parent for child and child for parent that seem so often to pass one another by; the embarrassing idealism of adolescence; the feelings of rebellion and contrition. This book looks back in love and with justice and avoids the obvious angers.

As the War of Liberation escalates, we move from ordinary happiness and unhappiness to the horrors of murder, terror and torture. Lallia is uniquely able to appreciate the ghastly ironies of wars of colonial liberation, that we know ...

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