Their Algeria

Lina Soualem


After 62 years of living together, my grandparents, Aïcha and Mabrouk, separated. They now live in two separate buildings facing each other. Aïcha and Mabrouk had gotten married in 1952 in the village of Laouamer in Algeria. It was an arranged marriage; she was 15 and he was 20. Two years later, they settled in Thiers, a medieval French town where they have been living for over 60 years. Neither of them had a choice in either their life, their marriage nor their immigration. I did not understand their separation, no one explained it to me, and they themselves never told me their story. Their silence troubled me. How did they experience this life of exile? How did they get to this situation? How are they dealing with their separation? With them, and with the help of my father Zinedine, I’m off to search for this story of exile, of bonds that are unmade, of suffering and pride – which profoundly affected my grandparents, and an entire generation of Algerians who immigrated to France.