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Pro|ects | |ean Genet | |ean Genet: Prsoner of Love

]ean Genet: Prisoner of Love

ln 2002, the Festival was dedicated to ]ean Genet whose stories of the dispossessed appear in
Prisoner of Love.
In 2002, the Festva was dedcated to |ean Genet whose stores of the dspossessed appear n Prsoner of
The page that was bank to begn wth s now crossed from top to bottom wth tny back characters -
etters, words, commas, excamatons marks - and ts because of them the page s sad to be egbe. But
a knd of uneasness, a feeng cose to nausea, an rresouton that stays my hand - these make me
wonder: do these back marks add up to reaty?
If the reaty of tme spent among, not wth, the Paestnans resded anywhere, t woud survve between
a the words that cam to gve an account of t.
When I sad the Backs were the characters on the whte page of Amerca, that was too easy an mage: the
truth reay es where I can never qute know t, n a ove between two Amercans of dfferent coour.
So dd I fa to understand the Paestnan revouton? Yes, competey.
It was for fun as much as anythng that I'd accepted the nvtaton to spend a few days wth the
Paestnans. But I was to stay neary two years. Every nght as I wated haf dead for the capsue of
Nembuta to send me to seep, I ay wth my eyes open and my mnd cear, nether afrad nor surprsed,
but amused to be there. On ether sde of the rver men and women had been on the aert for ages. Why
shoud I be any dfferent?
Even before I got there I knew my vst to the banks of the |ordan, to the Paestnan bases, coud never be
ceary expressed. I had greeted the revot as a musca ear recognzes a rght note. I often eft my tent
and sept under the trees, ookng up at Mky Way that seemed qute cose through the branches. At nght
the armed sentres movng around over grass and eaves made no sound. They tred to merge nto the
tree-trunks. They stened.
The Mky Way rose out of the ghts of Gaee and arched over me and the |ordan Vaey before breakng
up over the desert of Saud Araba. Lyng there n my banket I may have entered nto the sght more than
the Paestnans themseves, for whom the sky was a commonpace. Imagnng ther dreams, for they had
dreams, as best I coud, I reazed I was separated from them by the fe Id ved, a fe that was bas
compared wth thers. Crade and nnocence were words so chastey nked, for them, that to avod
corruptng ether they avoded ookng up. They mustnt see that the beauty of the sky was born and had
ts crade n the movng ghts of Israe.
In one of Shakespeares tragedes the archers oose ther arrows aganst the sky, and I woudnt have
been surprsed f some of the fedayeen, feet frmy on the ground, but angered at so much beauty archng
out of the and of Israe, had taken am and fred ther buets at the Mky Way - Chna and the socast
countres supped them wth enough ammunton to brng down haf the frmament. But coud they fre at
stars rsng out of ther own crade, Paestne?
We were ony exchangng courteses; nether of us was bound by promses forgotten before they were
uttered. My certanty that there was nothng at a serous ether n Arafats queston or n my answer was
probaby the rea reason why I forgot to brng pen and paper wth me. I ddnt beeve n the dea of that or
any other book; I meant to concentrate on what I saw and heard; and I was as nterested n my own
curosty as n ts ob|ects. But wthout my qute reazng t, everythng that happened and every word that
was spoken set tsef down n my memory.
There was nothng for me to do but ook and sten. Not a very audabe occupaton. Curous and
undecded, I stayed where I was, at A|oun. And graduay, as wth some edery coupes who started off
ndfferent to one another, my ove and the Paestnans affecton made me stay on.
The pocy of the superpowers, and the PLO's reatons wth them, spread over the Paestnan revot, and
us wth t, a knd of transcendenta nfuence. A tremor startng n Moscow, Geneva or Te Avv woud
rumbe on va Amman to reach out under trees and over the mountans to |erash and A|oun.
If they ooked at them from far enough away and on a msty day, peope thought the camps must be
happy paces because of the way the coours of the patches seemed to match: those who ved beneath
such harmony must be happy, or they woudnt have taken the troube to make ther camps such a |oy to
the eye.
We oughtnt to have et ther ornamenta appearance persuade us the tents were happy paces. We
shoudnt be taken n by sunny photographs. A gust of wnd bew the canvas, the znc and the corrugated
ron a away, and I saw the msery pan.
When I arrved, to an enthusastc wecome from the fedayeen, I probaby wasnt cear-headed enough to
evauate the opposng forces or make out the dvsons wthn the Arab word. I ought to have seen sooner
that ad to the Paestnans was an uson. Whether t came from the Guf or from North Afrca t was
ostentatous and decamatory, but fmsy.
Graduay my feengs changed, especay after the 1973 war. I was st charmed, but I wasnt convnced;
I was attracted but not bnded. I behaved ke a prsoner of ove.
But what f t were true that wrtng s a e? What f t merey enabed us to concea what was, and any
account s, ony eyewash? Wthout actuay sayng the opposte of what was, wrtng presents ony ts
vsbe, acceptabe and, so to speak, sent face, because t s ncapabe of reay showng the other one.
The same s true for every page n ths book where there s ony one voce. And ke a the other voces my
own s faked, and whe the reader may guess as much, he can never know what trcks t empoys.
The ony fary true causes of my wrtng ths book were the nuts I pcked from the hedges at A|oun.
A chcken, boat, brd, dart or aeropane such as schooboys make out of bts of paper - f you unfod them
carefuy they become a page from a newspaper or a bank sheet of paper agan. For a ong tme Id been
vaguey uneasy, but I was amazed when I reazed that my fe - I mean the events of my fe, spread out
fat n front of me - was nothng but a bank sheet of paper whch Id managed to fod nto somethng
dfferent. Perhaps I was the ony one who coud see t n three dmensons, as a mountan, a precpce, a
murder or a fata accdent.
What mght have seemed a heroc deed was ony a pretence, a good or bad mtaton that unobservant
eyes took for the thng tsef.
My whoe fe was made up of unmportant trfes ceary bown up nto acts of darng.
When I saw that my fe was a sort of ntago or reef n reverse, ts hoows became as terrbe as
abysses. In the process known as damascenng the patterns are engraved on a stee pate and nad wth
god. In me there s no god.
Beng abandoned and eft to be brought up as an orphan was a brth that was dfferent from but not any
worse than most. Chdhood among the peasants whose cows I tended was much the same as any other
chdhood. My youth as a thef and prosttute was ke that of a who stea or prosttute themseves, ether
n fact or n dream. My vsbe fe was nothng but carefuy masked pretences. Prsons I found rather
mothery - more so than the dangerous streets of Amsterdam, Pars, Bern and Barceona. In |a I ran no
rsk of gettng ked or dyng of hunger; and the corrdors were at once the most erotc and the most
restfu paces Ive ever known.
The few months I spent n the Unted States wth the Back Panthers are another exampe of how my fe
and my books have been msnterpreted. The Panthers saw me as a rebe - uness there was a parae
between us that none of us suspected. For ther movement was a shftng dream about the dongs of
Whtes, a poetca revot, an 'act', rather than a rea attempt at radca change.
And when the Paestnans nvted me to go and stay n Paestne, n other words n a fcton, werent they
too more or ess openy recognzng me as a natura sham? Even f I rsked annhaton by beng present at
actons of thers whch were ony shams, wasnt I aready non - exstent because of my own hoow
I thought about ths, sure that Amerca and Israe were n no danger from a sham, from defeats presented
as vctores, wthdrawas as advaces - n short, from a shftng dream foatng over the Arab word, capabe
ony of such unsubte acts as kng a pane-oad of passengers. By agreeng to go frst wth the Panthers
and then wth the Paestnans, payng my roe as a dreamer nsde a dream, wasnt I |ust one more factor
of unreaty nsde both movements? Wasnt I a Europen sayng to a dream, 'You are a dream - dont wake
the seeper!'
In Paestne, even more than anywhere ese, the woman struck me as havng a quaty the men acked.
Every man, though |ust as decent, brave and consderate, was mted by hs own vrtues. The women -
they werent aowed on the bases but they dd a the work n the camps - added to a ther vrtues a
dmenson that seemed to subtend a great pea of aughter. If the act they put on one day to protect a
prest had been performed by men t woud never have carred convcton. Perhaps t was women, not
men, who nvented the segregaton of women.
When I read n the papers about a vrgn of sxteen bowng hersef up n the mdde of a group of Israe
soders, t doesnt surprse me very much. Its the ugubrous yet |oyfu preparatons that ntrgue me.
What strng dd the od woman or the gr have to pu to detonate the grenades? How was the bodce
arranged to make the grs body ook womany and entcng enough to rouse suspcon n soders wth a
reputaton for ntegence?
Instead of havng me baptzed, the orphanage, even though t ddnt know whether my mother was
|ewsh, mght have had my body marked wth the 'shaow sandered stream'. If Id been brought up n
Tamudc fath Id be an edery rabb now, a prayers and tears, sppng damp notes between the stones
of the Wang Wa. My son woud be a ma|or spy n Mossad, workng n the Israe Embassy n Pars, and
my grandson woud be a Mrage pot, smng as he dropped hs bombs on West Berut.
A stupd thought, for n that case I woudn't be wrtng ths book or even ths page. I'd be someone ese,
wth dfferent thoughts and a dfferent regon, and I'd ook for mz ancestors among the furrers. I'd have
curs down to my chest. I'm sorry to have mssed that.
They brushed aganst death every day, every nght, hence the ary eegance besde whch dancng s
heavness tsef. And wth them anmas and somehow thngs aso were tamed.
Among groups rangng n sze from ten to ten thousand, death ddnt mean anythng any more: you
coudnt fee a quadrupe gref when four frends ded nstead of one, a sorrow a hundred tmes deeper
when a hundred ded. Paradoxcay, the death of a favourte fedayee made hm a the more ave, made
us see detas about hm wed never notced before, made hm speak to us, answer us wth new convcton
n hs voce. For a short tme the fe, the one fe of the now dead fedayee took on a densty t had never
had before. If whe he was st ave the twenty-year-od fedayee had made a few undemandng pans for
the next day - washng hs cothes, postng a etter - t seemed to me those unfufed ntentous were
accompaned now by the sme of decomposton. A dead mans pans stnk as they rot.
But what dd they mean to do wth ths grey head, wth ts grey skn, grey har, grey unshaven beard - ths
grey, pnk, round head for ever n ther mdst? Use t as a wtness? My body ddnt count. It served ony to
carry my round grey head.
It seemed to me that a that nterested the fedayeen was how the party was gong to end. For t was a
party, the Paestnan revot on the banks of the |ordan.
But why had the voce of stream grown so oud that nght, so oud that t got on my nerves? Had the chors
and the hs come cose to the water wthout anyone reazng? More key the sngers voces were tred,
or they |ust started to sten to the voce of teh stream, ether because they ked the sound of t or
because they dsked t.
The stream, n a voce that was ow at frst, has tod how a the Arab countres mstrused the Paestnans.
Not one of them bothered to gve any rea hep to that tortured peope tormented by ts enemy, Israe, by
ts own potca and revoutonary factons, and by the nner confcts of each of ts ctzens. Every country
fet threatened by a peope wthout a country.
So, heres how I frst met Hamza.
Irbd near the Syran fronter put up better resstance than paces ke Amman, and the Paestnan camp
on ts outskrts fought better and onger than any other n |ordan.
Some of the eaders, especay Khaed Abu Khaed, thought I wasnt safe at the Abu Bakr Hote. So they
sent for a young man, who came towards us smng.
Can anyone whos been to see The Batteshp Potemkn ffteen or twenty tmes say t wasnt ever |ust n
hopes of spottng that frendy peacefu face by the gun turret? - the face of the Russan saor handsome
enough to make the soders swarmng down the steps hat n ther tracks?
Ths soder was carryng a Kaashnkov, of course, but that was so common I ddnt notce. A I saw of hm
- or of anythng, amost - was hs peasant face and back har.
It was more than peasant, umnated by the certanty that the resstance at Irbd was hs fes whoe
purpose. He was twenty, wth back har, a keffyeh, and a |ust nascent moustache. He was pae - saow,
rather - despte hs tan and the dust.
We coudnt hear the sound of heavy artery, but t was st some dstance away.
There were penty of sgns that the Bedouns were on ther way. But even when you know a resstance
w fnay be n van, you have to resst.
One of the sgns was the stream of peope, dsheveed, dusty and dehydrated, feeng aong the roads
from the camps at Amman, Baqa and Gaza on mues, n orres or on foot.
Men and women, whatever ther age, were gong about certan n the knowedge of where they were and
what they were dong. Every act had ts own vaue and mportance, nether ncreased nor dmnshed by
the proxmty of the heavy artery or of the Syran fronter - that escape route, or trap, for feeng
Paestnans. No one knew f the fronter was open or cosed. You mght thnk t was open when t had
been cosed fve mnutes before. And vce versa.
It was October 1971, and I can vouch for the fact that the man n the street n Irbd, as we as the
shopkeepers and hote managers, were aready qute obvousy hoste towards the Paestnans.
It took us about an hour to wak to Hamzas pace.
The camp was beow, and the road soped downward. When we came to a tte whte wa wth a
whte-panted door n t, Hamza took a key out of ths pocket and et us nto a sma country yard, ockng
the door agan afterwards.
Outsde the room whch I ater found out was her bedroom stood a Paestnan woman dressed n the sort
of gown shed have worn back n Hafa. She was smng, and she had a gun. She must have been about
forty. The gun sung over her shoueder was the same as Hamzas. He greeted hs mother n Arabc. She
went on smng, and wearng her gun.
The famy had fed from Hafa after t was bombed, and eventuay found refuge n Irbd. In 1949 the camp
st conssted of patched-up tents. Then t became a shanty town, wth was and roofs made of sheets of
aumnum, corrugated ron and bts of cardboard, |ust as wretched as the camp at Baqa.
Hamza showed me hs bed, where I was to seep that nght.
'I be on duty. Im a |unor offcer.' (I seem to remember he was n charge of about ten or tweve
After unch, Hamza took me nto the schoo yard. The cass-rooms were empty. A the chdren were n the
payground, groups of Paestnan kds takng about the approach of the |ordanan artery wthout ether
boastng or fear. They a had one or two pars of grenades sung over ther shouders or ted to ther bets,
and an Ageran teacher who spoke French tod me that none of the boys woud seep that nght. Theyd
be watng for the moment to take the pns out of ther grenades and toss them at the Bedoun soders.
My hands were attracted by ther roundness. The boys, aready bod fghters, taked of nothong but war,
n accents much more grandose than those of the fedayeen.
Dd the fedayeen thnk of somethng ese, somethng precse? Of a womans thngs, for nstance? Or of
other paces chosen regardess of reason? - har, eyes, breasts, prvate parts, buttocks. Or were they ost
n a mst of dffused desre, and each pure as an ange?
The sound of guns and mortars had got nearer, answered by bursts of machne-gun fre and odd rfe-shots
from the fedayeen n Irbd.
I ay fuy dressed on Hamzas bed, stenng to the nose of batte. It grew ess reguar but remaned |ust
as deafenng and apparenty cose.
Then n the mdst of ths aura chaos two tte reports from nearby seemed to hur the dn of destructon
back. I suddeny reazed they were two peacefu taps at the door of my room. Whe ron and stee
expoded n the dstance, a knucke was bangng on wood a few feet away. I ddnt answer, party because
Iddnt know how to say 'Come n' n Arabc yet. But many because, as I sad, Id ony |ust reazed what
had happened.
The door opened, ght from the starry sky came nto the room, and behnd t I coud see a ta shadow. I
haf-cosed my eyes, pretendng I was aseep, but through my ashes I coud see everythng. The mother
had |ust come n. Was she taken n by my pretence? Had she come out of the now ear-spttng darkness,
or out of the cy nght I carry about wth me everywhere? She was carryng a tray, whch she put down on
the tte bue tabe wth yeow and back fowers, aready mentoned. She moved the tabe near the head
of the bed, where I coud reach t. Her movements were as precse as a bnd mans n dayght. Wthout
makng a sound she went out and shut the door. The starry sky was gone, I coud open my eyes. On the
tray were a cup of Turksh coffee and a gass of water. I drank them, shut my eyes and wated, hopng I
hadn't made any nose.
Another two tte taps at the door, |ust ke the frst two. In the ght of the stars and the wanng moon the
same ong shadow appeared, as famar now as f t had come nto my room at the same tme every nght
of my fe before I went to seep. Or rather so famar that t was nsde rather than outsde me, comng
nto me wth a cup of Turksh coffee every nght snce I was born. Through my ashes I saw her move the
tte tabe senty back to ts pace and, st wth the assurance of someone born bnd, pck up the tray
and go out, cosng the door.
My one fear was that my poteness mght not be up to hers - that some movement of my hands or egs
mght have betrayed my pretence. It a happened so smoothy that I reazed the mother came every
nght wth a cup of coffee and a gass of water for Hamza. Wthout a sound, except for four tte taps at
the door, and n the dstance, as n a pcture by Detae, gunfre aganst a background of stars.
Because he was fghtng that nght, Id taken the sons pace and perhaps payed hs part n hs room and
hs bed. For one nght and for the duraton of one smpe but oft-repeated act, a man oder than she was
hersef became the mothers son. For 'before she was made, I was'. Though younger than I, durng that
famar act she was my mother as we as Hamzas. It was n my own persona and portabe darkness that
the door of my room opened and cosed. I fe aseep.
The varous hazards that have aowed me to survve n the word dont aow me to change t, so a I sha
do s observe, decpher and descrbe t. And every phase of my fe w |ust consst n the undemandng
abor of wrtng down each epsode - choosng the words, crossng them out readng them the wrong way
round. They wont be set down truthfuy, as some transcendenta eye mght see them, but as I mysef
seect, nterpret and cassfy them. As Im not an archvst or a hstoran or anythng ke t, I ony have
spoken of my fe n order to te the story, a story of the Paestnans.
What I saw at once was that every 'naton', the better to |ustfy ts rebeon n the present, sought proof of
ts own snguarty n the dstant past. Every uprsng reveaed some deep geneaogy whose strength was
not n ts amost non-exstent branches but n ts roots, so that the rebes sprngng forth everywhere
seemed to be ceebratng some sort of cut of the dead. Words, phrases, whoe anguages were
Hamza returned at dawn, covered n dust, weary eyed, smng happy. He stowed hs gun away n the
sheter by the bed.
'Congratuatons, kd,' he sad, addressng a mtary saute to the entrance to the cear. 'You shot we
tonght. I appont you gun of the frst cass.'
He aughed. Two frends who were wth hm remaned serous. He ay down and probaby fe straght
I went nto the mothers room, ntendng |ust to drop n and say goodbye. She smed. She was crouchng
on the foor, kneadng the dough, for that evenngss bread, but rose and made me some tea. Water
hadnt been ratoned that nght. The town had put up a good defence. The peope were obvousy proud of
themseves. Unke Pars n 1940, Irbd had hed out.
'The Syran fronter's open.'
Everyone n Irbd knew at once. I decded to eave as soon as the frst coectve tax was ready.
As soon as were out of |ordan the mage of Hamza and hs mother started to haunt me. It was strange: I
saw Hamza aone, gun n hand, toused and smng, |ust as hed ooked when Khaed Abu Khaed
ntroduced us. But nstead of standng out aganst the sky or the fronts of houses, he seemed to be framed
by a huge dark shadow owerng ke a storm coud, the contrours - or as panters woud say the vaues - of
whch suggested the vast and ponderous shape of hs mother.
But f I thought of the mother hersef, for exampe, when she opened the door of my room, her son was
aways there too, enormous, watchng over her wth hs gun n hs hand. In the end I never magned |ust
one mage on ts own: there was aways a coupe, one of them seen n ordnary atttudes and reastc
dmensons whe the other was a ggantc presence of mythoogca substance and proportons. It mght
be summed up as an apparton of a coossa coupe, one human and the other fabuous.
Of course what Ive |ust sad s an nadequate account of what happened: the mages were aways
changng. Hamza appeared aone at frst, and hs har strred not because of the wnd or because he
moved hs head, but so that hs mother, or rather a sort of mountan resembng hs mother, mght
suddeny appear behnd hm, comng nether from eft nor rght, above nor beow.
Amd that word, that anguage, that peope, those faces, those anmas, pants and ands a exudng the
sprt of Isam, what preoccuped me was a group embodyng the mage of the mater doorosa. The mother
and son, but not as Chrstan artsts have depcted them, panted or scuptured n marbe or wood, wth the
dead son yng across the knees of a mother younger than the son de-crucfed, but one of them aways
protectng the other.
Perhaps ts not very mportant, but t s very strange, that for me the sea, the embem of the Paestnan
revouton, was never a Paestnan hero or a vctory ke Karameh, but that amost ncongruous apparton:
Hamza and hs mother. That was the coupe I needed, for n a way Id cut t out to sut mysef, cut t out
from a contnuum that ncuded tme, space, and a connectons wth country, famy, and kn.
Id made a good |ob of detachng t from the unverse to whch t naturay beonged, seectng |ust the two
eements I coud assmate - the mother and one of the sons - and mperousy dscardng the two other
sons, the daughter, the son-n aw, and probaby aso a famy, a trbe, perhaps a whoe peope. Im not
sure I fee as strongy now about the nghts of the revouton as I dd n 1970. But perhaps even then I was
ookng for the revoutons embem and sea, as n the sea of the prophets n the Koran.
But why had ths oft-repeated, profoundy Chrstan coupe, symbozng the nconsoabe gref of a mother
whose son was God, appeared to me ke a bot from the bue as a symbo of the Paestnan resstance?
And not ony that. That was unerstandabe enough. But why dd t aso strke me that the revouton took
pace n order that ths coupe shoud haunt me?
At the age of sxty my hands and feet grew ght agan, my fngers capabe of cutchng a tuft of grass at
the top of a sope and baancng my woud-be weghtess body on the precarous stone on whch I stood. I
coud host mysef up |ust because the tuft of grass tsef was so weak! I coud cmb as fast as the
fedayeen, and I decned ther hands outstreched to hep me as I reached the now treeess pateau from
whch you coud see |ercho.
Nether Hamza aone, nor hs sster and her husband aone, nor the mother aone, coud have become
symbos of the revouton. I see qute ceary that there had to be Hamza, hs mother, the nght of batte
and the frework dspay of the nearby guns.
And now ts a dsappeared.
Yet ke them I have ooked on at the Paestnans revot as f from a wndow or a box n a theatre, and
as f through a pear-handed orgnette.
How far away I was from the Paestnans. For exampe when I was wrtng ths book, out there among the
fedayeen, I was aways on the other sde of a boundary. I knew I was safe, not because of a Cetc
physque or a ayer of goose fat, but because of even shner and stronger armour: I ddnt beong to,
never reay dentfed wth, ther naton or ther movement. My heart was n t; my body was n t; my sprt
was n t. Everythng was n t at one tme or another; but never my tota beef, never the whoe of mysef.
I frst met the Paestnans n 1970. Some of the eaders got excted and amost nssted I fnsh ths book.
But I was afrad the end of the book mght concde wth the end of the resstance. Not that my book woud
show t as t actuay was. But what f my decson to make my years wth the resstance pubc were a sgn
that t was soon to dsappear? Some nexpressbe feeng warned me that the rebeon was fadng,
faggng, was about to turn nto the path and dsappear. It woud be made nto epcs. I ooked at the
resstance as f were gong to vansh at any moment.
How does a |ourney reay start?
The fxed mark, the poe star that guded me was st Hamza, hs mother, hs dsappearance, torture and
amost certan death. But f he was dead, how woud I know hs grave? Was hs mother st ave? Woudnt
she be terrby od? My fxed mark mght be caed ove, but what sort of ove was t that had germnated,
grown and spread n me for fourteen years for a boy and an od woman Id ony ever seen for twenty-four
Is ove anythng ese but what wakes you up and sends you to seep? Does t make you anxous too? What
has become of hm? Of her? Of them both? The queston aways presents tsef as f t had chosen ts
moment. When ones very tred, too tred to thnk, and starts to day-dream. Or n a moment of peasure.
But what may they be sufferng?
What had preoccuped me so deepy so ong was gong to seek out ts goa: marks on a thn, suspcous
face, a few grey hars, and some smears of henna on a wthered skn.
When I went back to Irbd n |uy 1984 the reveaton of the town, the camp, the house and the mother, a
Hamzas gorous past, were thngs of the past. No prde or happness was eft n the mothers voce or
The more I ooked at the wrnkes round her mouth and on her forehead the ess I recognzed the strong,
cheerfu woman Id known before. So much so that the more proofs she gave me that I reay had been
here, that we reay had met, before, the more I doubted whether a that had actuay happened fourteen
years ago.
Before, my memory had been frmy mprnted wth the mage of a woman strong enough to carry a gun,
and to oad, am and fre t. I hadnt been present at the dbace; I coud measure ts effects a the better.
Hamzas mother had become as thn and fat as a the other two-dmensona shapes you saw n |ordan.
Hamzas mother was as the empty unform on the coffn of a dead soder, as a poster, as a barey oaf, as
a pate.
Where coud a the mothers codness, dryness and mstrust have come from? From what dred-up
stream? But the metaphor ddnt hep.
What had happened n those fourteen years to turn such a free and handsome woman nto the one who
treated us wth nothng but gue and mstrust? For t seemed to me she gave me the pece of paper wth
Hamzas phone number on t merey out of wearness under so many pressures. The pura s sgnfcant.
She'd been gay before, defendng her cause wth her gun and proud of her son. Now she was dred up.
That was what I thought, or rather somethng ke t, yet I knew Id never be cured. The fedayeen whod
become my frends, but wth a frendshp that was never aboured, were dead, mprsoned or on the run, or
had regrouped to fght other battes n other countres. The trees - beeches, hornbeams, a few popars -
hadnt been harassed. They sad nothng. But not a snge tropsm had yeded.
I crept away amost on tptoe, ke someone eavng a room n whch even the bed s aseep.
Its tme for me to take stock. From 1950 to 1955, I found Greece peasant. In 1967 |ordan was deghtfu.
At the begnnng of 1970 I was fond of the Back Panthers. From ate 1970 to ate 1972, more than
anythng or anyone ese I oved the fedayeen. What happened? Greeks, |apanese, Panthers, Paestnans -
had they been under a ucky star? Was t that I was easy mpressed? Are they st as I remember them? It
was so beautfu I wonder whether a those perods of my fe werent |ust dreams.
Anythng not to do wth the book came to seem so far away as to be nvsbe. There was the Paestnan
peope, my search for Hamza and hs mother, my trps to the East, especay to |ordan, and my book. But
France, Europe, a the West, no onger exsted. A trp I made to varous parts of Afrca and my stay n
A|oun detached me st further from the Europe and the Europeans who aready meant so tte. By the
mdde of 1983 I was free enough to start to wrte my souvenrs, whch were meant to be read as
After gvng hs name and age, a wtness s supposed to say somethng ke, 'I swear to te the whoe
truth.' Before I started to wrte t Id sworn to mysef to te the truth n ths book, not n any ceremony but
every tme a Paestnan asked me to read the begnnng or other passages from t or wanted me to
pubsh parts of t n some magazne. Legay speakng, a wtness nether opposes nor serves the |udges.
Under French aw he has sworn to te the truth, not to te t to the |udges. He takes an oath to the pubc -
to the court and the spectators. The wtness s on hs own. He speaks. The |udges sten and say nothng.
The wtness doesnt merey answer the mpct queston 'how?'- n order to show the 'why' he throws ght
on the 'how', a ght sometmes caed artstc. The |udges have never been to the paces where the acts
they have to |udge were performed, so the wtness s ndspensabe. But he knows a reastc descrpton
won't mean anythng to anyone, ncudng the |udges, uness he adds some ght and shade whch ony he
perceved. The |udges may we descrbe a wtness as vauabe. He s.
Whats the pont of that medeva - amost Caroongan - soundng oath n the courtroom? Perhaps ts to
surround the wtness wth a sotude that confers on hm a ghtness from whch he can spek the truth. For
there may be three or four peope present who are capabe of hearng a wtness.
Any reaty s bound to be outsde me, exstng n and for tsef.
I remember ke an ow. Memores come back n 'bursts of mages'.
Wrtng ths book, I see my own mage far, far away, dwarf sze, and more and more dffcut to recognze
wth age. Ths snt a compant. Im |ust tryng to convey the dea of age and of the form poetry takes
when one s od: I grow smaer and smaer n my own eyes and see the horzon speedng towards me, the
ne nto whch I sha merge behnd whch I sha vansh, from whch I sha never return.
A Ive sad and wrtten happened. But why s t that ths coupe s the ony reay profound memory I have
of the Paestnan revouton?
I dd the best I coud to understand how dfferent ths revouton was from others, and n a way I dd
understand t. But what w reman wth me s the tte house n Irbd where I sept for one nght, and
fourteen years durng whch I tred to fnd out f that nght ever happened.
Ths ast page of my book s transparent.

Un captif amoureux Editions Gallimard, 1986

selection: Albert Dichy & Lara Bruhl
translated from the French by Barbara Bray