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This article is taken from PN Review 208, Volume 39 Number 2, November - December 2012.

Who's Afraid of Algeria? On Rashid Boudjedra André Naffis-Sahely
From 1957 until 1964, when it was re-launched as Le Nouvel Observateur, Marguerite Duras wrote a number of incendiary articles for the France Observateur: ‘Like you, like anyone,’ she recalled in 1980, ‘I felt an overwhelming urge to denounce injustice of all sorts, whether its victim was a single person or an entire nation.’ Her very first piece was entitled ‘The Algerian’s Flowers’, where she described a ‘miserably dressed’ twenty-year-old Algerian flower seller:

He walks towards the corner of Jacob and Bonaparte, which is less closely watched than the market, and stops there – anxious, of course. He has reason to be anxious. Not ten minutes have passed – he hasn’t had the time to sell a single bouquet – when two gentlemen ‘in plain clothes’ move towards him. They come from rue Bonaparte. They’re hunting. Noses in the wind, sniffing the fine Sunday air for irregularities the way a big dog might sniff for quail, they head straight for their quarry.

‘Papers?’

The Algerian has no licence to sell flowers.

So one of the two gentlemen goes over to the pushcart, slides his clenched fist underneath, and – how strong he is! – overturns the cart, flowers and all, with a single blow.

The intersection fills with the flowers of early spring (Algerian spring).

Eisenstein isn’t there to record that image of flowers on the ground, stared at by the young Algerian flanked by France’s representatives of ...


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