Writing In and Out of Algeria, Writing Algeria, Today
What does it mean, today, to write in Algeria? Never before, in the history of Algeria, has the question been charged with such serious consequences as the loss of one's life, the threat of losing one's life, being condemned to death (and not always knowing it), or living in forced exile. All of this creates a climate of total fear and uncertainty. Thus, one may wonder why, why would any one continue to write?
Writing in Algeria today raises acutely, and appropriately, the question of implications. It is absolutely impossible not to implicate oneself in the unfolding of current events, and dissociate that from writing. Clearly, when the very act of writing means that one might, with more certainty than probability, lose one's life, it becomes all the more filled with an overtone of seriousness, one which carries a sense of urgency, a heavy weight: that of the hundreds and thousands of bodies . . ., fallen bodies, bodies torn, and tortured, and raped, and blown in so many pieces, that they become nameless, nameless bodies. . . .
"Le silence c'est la mort, et toi si tu te tais tu meurs, et si tu parles tu meurs, alors dis et tu meurs" (Silence is death, and if you keep quiet, you die, and if you speak you die, so speak and you die), explains Assia, one of the characters in Algérie en éclats. 1 One of the poignant elements of the play is the fact that the characters keep on rehearsing the play, knowing perfectly well how ludicrous it is, since it will never be enacted. 2 In spite of this, they rehearse, defying both silence and death as they report current events, denounce daily atrocities, and dare remember passages from books, and articles from newspapers, as they immortalize their authors. 3 Ludicrous? Perhaps not, if one considers the power of words, in this case, even of one's words to oneself. For, there are such things as the unbearable, and the unspeakable, and more so then, than ever, the ability to enunciate the unbearable and the unspeakable becomes, to a certain degree, affirming and liberating, if one can say that, when considering the case of Algeria and the