This moving tale of imprisonment and escape, persecution and loss, is narrated by the daughter of an alleged Harki, an Algerian soldier who fought for the French during the Algerian War for Independence. It was the fate of such men to be twice exiled, first in their homeland after the war, and later in France, where fleeing Harki families sought refuge but instead faced contempt, discrimination, and exclusion. Zahia Rahmani blends reality and imagination in her writing, offering a fictionalized version of her own family’s struggle. While the author delves deeply into the past, she also indicts present-day France and Algeria. From the unique perspective of the daughter of an accused Harki, she examines France’s complex and controversial history with its former colony and offers new insight into the French civil riots of 2005. She makes a stirring plea for understanding between generations and cultures, and especially for an end to the destructive practice of condemning children for their fathers’ actions and beliefs.
The Algerian-born academic and author Zahia Rahmani, a visiting professor at NYU’s Gallatin School, is one of France’s leading art historians and a writer of fiction, memoirs, and cultural criticism. She is the author of a literary trilogy, published by Sabine Wespieser Editions, dedicated to contemporary figures of so-called banished men: Moze (2003); “Musulman” (2005); and France, récit d’une enfance (2006). The U.S. edition of the most recent book, France, Story of a Childhood (translated by Lara Vergnaud), was published by Yale University Press in 2016. As an art historian, Rahmani is Director of the Research Program on Art and Globalization at the Institut National de l’Histoire de l’Art (INHA). She is the founder and director of INHA’s ambitious Interactive Bibliographic Database, on the globalization of art, its history and theoretical impact. It draws from multiple disciplines including the history of art, politics, geography, and comparative literature. Rahmani is a member of the Global Visual Cultures Academic Committee and she also created the graduate research program, which she directed from 1999-2002, at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts. Her multi-year international research project at the INHA in Paris and Marseille culminated in Made in Algeria: Genealogy of a Territory, a book and exhibition of colonial cartography, high and popular visual culture, and contemporary art at the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM) in Marseille.
A review of France, Story of a Childhood by Albertine’s Miriam Bridenne can be found here (see third book on list): http://www.albertine.com/reading-list/women-in-translation-month
Vincent Crapanzano is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and of Comparative Literature at the Graduate Center of CUNY. The subjects of his study and writing are wide ranging: the epistemology of interpretation, psychoanalysis, ethnopsychiatry and folk healing, spirit possession, theories of the self and other, domination, life histories and the articulation of experience, fieldwork and the writing of anthropology, imaginative horizons, memory, transgression and hope, and literary criticism. Crapanzano has done fieldwork with the Navajo Indians, the Hamadsha (a Moroccan Muslim confraternity), white South Africans during apartheid, Christian fundamentalists and legal conservatives in America, and the Harkis. His books include The Harkis: The Wound that Never Heals (2011); The Fifth World of Forster Bennett: Portrait of a Navajo (2003); Waiting: The Whites of South Africa (1985); Tuhami: Portrait of a Moroccan (1985); Hermes’ Dilemma and Hamlet’s Desire (1982); and The Hamadsha: A Study in Moroccan Ethnopsychiatry (1981). His essays have appeared in academic journals as well as such magazines and newspapers as The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Times Literary Supplement.