Portus Magnus

I breathed the air of history all unaware, and walked oblivious through its littered layers.

-Annie Dillard


Our house, the Villa Robineau, had been built by a pied noir family in the early twentieth century on a cliff separated from the sea by a narrow strip of land.  It was the most imposing house in the small village of Bethioua, and had been built in the Anglo-Norman style, with a gabled slate roof and long, lugubrious windows. Continue reading

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The Good-Time Girl

It seems that the people of Oran are like that friend of Flaubert who, on the point of death, casting a last glance at the irreplaceable earth, exclaimed: “Close the window, it’s too beautiful.”
Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays


One of Algeria’s paradoxes is that it is both a relatively new nation and an ancient land, with a history stretching back to pre-biblical times. When we were living there, I must confess that we were so caught up in the difficulties of day-to-day living, we were blind to the wealth of history just under our feet and around every corner. We had Roman ruins just down the street – a few hundred yards from our front door. I don’t think we ever visited them during all the time we were there. Continue reading

Couscous With Butter And Sugar

Sometimes we survive by forgetting.

-Anon


“Where on earth is he?” I muttered to myself, pacing up and down the house, from the bedroom — where our new-born son was sleeping peacefully in his cot — to the living-room and back again, as if I wanted to wear a path along the tiled corridor. Continue reading