The Patron Saint of Sponge Cake

Mouskoutchou – ce gâteau algérien, léger comme un nuage, d’un gout très agréable parfumé au citron…..

Mouskoutchou – this Algerian sponge cake, light as a cloud, deliciously flavoured with a hint of lemon….

-Recettes algériennes


“Come with me, a mmi, this morning we’re going to visit the shrine of Sidi Messaoud, to ask for his blessing.” T. had just finished scrubbing his face with a damp flannel and was looking forward to another day’s adventures with his friends from the village. His mother’s pronouncement cast a slight shadow over the sunny day he glimpsed beckoning to him through the window of his grandparents’ house. Continue reading

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The Sunlit Uplands

Temlal tasa d way turew. 

A family reunion (Loose translation)

-Kabyle expression


Kker, a mmi, kker!” (Wake up, my son, wake up!) T could hear his mother’s voice coming from far away. He could still feel the heady pull of his dreams, beckoning him back to play. Then he remembered. Sitting bolt upright in bed, he rubbed his eyes and looked at his mother, who was trying, rather unsuccessfully, to wake his younger brothers and sister as well. The windows of their flat above the bakery on the main square of Maison Carrée were still dark, the night pressing against the panes. He started trembling from excitement and anticipation. Today was the day. Continue reading

The End of Innocence

(He) wept for the end of innocence and the darkness of man’s heart….

— William Golding: The Lord of the Flies


If the ruler dies while the heir is too young to take over, the old monarch’s younger brother (i.e. the new monarch’s uncle) would probably become the interim de facto ruler and would be well positioned to take the crown permanently if something unfortunate were to happen.

— TV Tropes


“Come in here,” T’s youngest uncle mumbled, “We need to talk about money.”

As soon as T. had arrived back at the bakery from school that October afternoon, a week or so after his father’s funeral, he had found the latter’s two younger brothers waiting for him. Surprised, he also noted the unwelcome presence of his father’s cousin, S. It all looked very official. Finding nothing to say, he went to stow his schoolbag at the back of the shop, next to the huge stainless steel kneading machines where the batches of crusty baguettes, hot from the ovens, had been set out in preparation for the evening rush. Continue reading

The Olive Tree

If the olive trees knew the hands that had planted them, their oil would become tears.

– Mahmoud Darwish


Etch, the-lahnayek, etch.” (Eat, please, eat). T. looked blankly at his paternal grandmother, Yamina, without really seeing her. She looked old and tired, ravaged by age and sorrow. Her scarves and shawls were wrapped tightly around her hunched figure and her face was scored by wrinkles so pronounced, it was as if the skin no longer had a connection to the skull underneath. It was hard to tell what she must have looked like as a young woman. Continue reading

Welcome Home

T.’s eyes grew black with anger as he glared balefully at the older man standing in front of him.”You’ll get your money back now that I have the bakery!” he shouted, spitting out every word. It was the day after his father’s death, and the latter’s older cousin — who had been saved from almost certain death by the generosity of T’s father — had sidled up to him and whispered that his father had died owing him seven hundred thousand francs (about £70) and that he wanted his money back. Continue reading

The Dying of the Light

“And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
― Dylan Thomas


“Wake up, my son! Wake up!”

T. sat up groggily and looked around. He realised, with a start, that he was not in his own bedroom in the Ridouci farmhouse in Reghaïa, but appeared to have fallen asleep on his mother’s bed. His mind was a jumble of confused thoughts, like the shards of a broken mirror, reflecting back on each other, yet making no sense. Continue reading

Axxam

Ixxamen n medden weɛṛen, ma ur nɣin ad sḍeɛfen.

Living in somebody else’s house is hard – if it doesn’t kill you, it will make you lose weight.

— Kabyle proverb


If  you go ever go up into Kabylie  – either to make your annual pilgrimage to your ancestral village, or simply driven by a tourist’s curiosity – you will find that many of the villages, perched on their peaks or strung along their high ridges, have lost much of their traditional character. Continue reading