Garçon manqué. Tomboy in the English translation. Autofiction. About a girl called Yasmina. Born in Rennes in Brittany. Moved to Algiers, Algeria as a child. In 1967. French mother. Maryvonne. Algerian father. Rachid. He's a senior civil servant. She goes to a French school. She speaks fluent French. She doesn't speak Arabic. Her father calls her Brio.
In France they call her Nina. It sounds less Arab. Maryvonne's parents didn't want her to marry Rachid. Her parents met while the war was on. Nina is French. Nina is Algerian. Nina is both. She's neither. She has no country. She looks at a photo of Rachid's brother, who died in the Algerian war. He's pointing a rifle. At her. She's the enemy.
Nina wants to be like a boy. She cuts her hair. She tries on the gendered mannerisms. 'Je ne me sais pas.' 'I don't know myself.' A prisoner of her body as well as a prisoner in both countries.
The telephone sounds at night. Their car tyres are removed. From a balcony they throw dirty water at her. Things could end in a blood bath. Kids throw pebbles at the car while her mother's driving.
Nina and her sister stay with their grandparents for the summer. They don't ask about Algeria. So much is spoken by never being said. But.
There's a devastating violence in the word, casual or intended. The effects on a highly intelligent, hypersensitive child. Their effects on anyone. Yes, the power of the word. This book conveys it. Sometimes brilliantly.
My other posts on Nina Bouraoui:
Nina Bouraoui: Avant les hommes
Nina Bouraoui: Mes mauvaises pensées