Back in my rooms, I started reading the book I had bought that morning, Boualem Sansal’s Petit éloge de la mémoire, subtitled “Four thousand and one years of nostalgia.” Sansal opens his book by defining “nostalgia, or homesickness as one says,” as “a richness, a formidable quarry.” The only problem, he goes on, is that one needs to know where one’s home country is, what it was, what it became, how and why one moved away from it and which thread still links one to it. “Which means that nostalgia often leads to errancy, to apathy, to anger, to renunciation. At best one invents a myth in which one takes refuge as in a prison.” But, he continues, when the writer uses nostalgia — a business as risky as speleology — well, then it is not “a silly baseless belief but a freedom based on facts.” And Sansal goes on to show this in this marvellous little book as he explores his own vision of the history of the Maghreb through the ages, as seen through an “I” that is that of a Berber first born in pharaonic Egypt and then reborn/reincarnated over and over again at core hinge moments in the history of what was called Numidia, Iffrikyia or the Maghreb.
More when I wake up — but from what? The sleep of nostalgia or the nostalgia of sleep?
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