The land that I forgot: From Algeria to the US, a story of family
by Nora Belblidia
Published August 17 in Al-Jazeera
Excerpt: My grandfather was arrested by the French in 1956. Or was it ’57?
He was at home for lunch one day, as he was every day at noon. My grandmother would have cooked couscous or chorba or khalota, the smell of semolina and cinnamon hanging in steamed air. A baguette would have sat at the centre of the table, with its soft belly and hard shell.
It was the Algerian War of Independence, and my grandfather, aged 30, was a member of the Front de Liberation Nationale, the FLN, the political party fighting against French colonialism. Everyone was in those days. That is how the story goes at least.
The police knocked on the door, and they took my grandfather away. Four months later, he came home with a head full of lice. C’est tout. “He never wanted to talk about it,” my dad says.
My dad likes to talk about things, to pass down stories as if they were family heirlooms. There is the family dog, a German Shepherd mutt, shot by French paratroopers. The former student who warned my great-grandfather he was on the French hit list and that my great-grandfather could no longer be protected. The wife who did not know her husband was also in the FLN and, fearing he might rat her out, threatened him with a knife. What colour was the knife, I wonder? Was it serrated or dull? Was it used to chop onions when it was not clenched in a woman’s fist?