The Master Of Lateral Thinking

Explosions are not comfortable.

-Yevgeny Zamyatin


Attention! Attention! Incendie à la raffinerie!”

The gendarmes’ talkie-walkies suddenly sprang into life and a crackly voice announced that a serious fire had broken out at the refinery. My heart in my mouth, I peered through the dirty window of my office in the direction of the refinery. A huge plume of thick black smoke hung like a harbinger of doom in the still air above it. Continue reading

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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

No Entry

We dream, we wake on a cold hillside, we pursue the dream again. In the beginning was the dream, and the work of disenchantment never ends.
― Kim Stanley Robinson


I suddenly heard the clang of the double gates being thrown open and the tyres of a car screeching down the slight incline to the garage. The only person it could be was T, but it seemed highly unlikely at that time in the morning. He had left for the refinery only a few hours before, as he always liked to be at his desk before the work buses arrived, to set a good example — unlike other managers, who had a tendency to begin the working day nearer lunchtime. Continue reading

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

“You can go and see the doctor on Friday, then….”

It was the summer of 1976 and I was on holiday in Britain with our two small children. Sitting in my parents’ living-room, I had clamped the phone against my ear to try to muffle the sound of canned laughter coming from the television in the corner of the room.  The children were sitting on the carpet in front of it, eating bowls of cornflakes, entranced by the novelty of daytime programming.  Shouting to make myself heard over the noise of the television and the static on the line, I asked T to go and pick up a prescription the following Friday at our doctor’s surgery in Bethioua. Continue reading

An Algerian in England

Regarde, Étranger, vers cette île
que la lumière bondissante révèle pour ton délice.

Look, stranger, on this island now
The leaping light for your delight discovers

-W.H. Auden


“So —  you don’t like mechanical engineering? It’s either that, or you go home. Your choice.”

T. drew his brows together in consternation. He was sitting in a room in the Sheffield University Students’ Union, across the desk from a representative from the British firm, CJB (Constructors John Brown). He glanced at the man sitting opposite him, then out of the window at the dreary day outside. Continue reading