What the Day Owes the Night: Yasmina Khadra

A captured moment from a book

What the Day owes the Night is the second novel I read for Yasmina Khadra. When I read the Willows of Kabul I was taken with awe and painful irritated feelings for months . How a slim book with a simple plot can get to much complications of emotions and brutality of humanity and time in harmony… I grabbed What the Day Owes the Night with hesitation, thinking it might be another awed filled reading…. And of course it was… However, it was one of those extremely special times of reading , when you get hold of that novel, and you cannot leave it until you are defeated by sleep, and wake up to suddenly stare in space and think , oh ,what happened after the last page I left before my eyes lastly laid a look on words… When the characters accompany you to work, invade your thoughts with similar coincidences and wishful thoughts sometimes, and wish to erase thoughts others.. it closes as it starts with the question of maybe people similar in lives under injustices as harsh as occupation or colonization can continue to ask : what are you owed in a world you don’t belong to…I highly recommend !!!

Somehow remarkable quotes can be unforgettable;

“If u want your life to be a small part of eternity, to be lucid even in the heart of madness, love….love with all your strength ,love as though you know how to do, love enough to make the gods themselves jealous …for it is in love that all ugliness reveals its beauty”


A man who passes over great love of his life will only be as old as he regrets,and all the sighing in the world will not be enough to soothe his soul

These paragraphs captured me , and somehow , they felt so relevant with our life today as Israel marks 60 something of independence and we mark our Nakba..
The novel takes place in Algeria, when it was a french colony . When Arabs were the sub workers, lesser indigenous people and served the feudal colonial regime that they lived in for centuries.
In this conversation, between Yunes a well bred ( by now ) young Algerian man and Monsieur Sosa’ where the later starts : ‘ when my great grandfather set his sight on this godforsaken hole, he believed he go to his grave without ever making a profit from it…..There wasn’t a shack for miles, not a tree, not so much as a skeleton blanched by the sun . But my grandfather did not move on. He made the tools he needed with his bare hands, he hoed and weeded ad tilled this land until his hands could barely hold his knife to cut bread…it was hard work , he worked day and night ……..And thanks to my family that land was tamed..generation after generation it would be transformed into vineyards and orange groves.Every tree you see is a chapter in the history of my ancestors. Every orange you pick…..This country owes everything to us…we built the road, we laid the railway lines that run to the edge ..We threw bridges across rivers, built towns and cities …..From a thousand year old wasteland we built a great and thriving country, from barren rock we created the garden of Eden …and now they expect us to believe that we did all this for nothing ?’
Then Yunes after a long silence burst out : ‘ a long ,long time ago, Monsieur Sosa ,long before you and your great grandfather ,a man stood where you are standing now. When he looked out over the plains,he could feel at one with it .There were no roads, no railroad tracks and the mastic trees and the brambles did not bother him . Every river, dead or alive, every shadow, every pebble reflected the image of his humility.This man was self possessed because he was free. He had nothing but a flute to calm his flock of goats and a club of ward off the jackals. When he lay down in the shade of this tree here, he had only to close his eyes and he could hear himself live. The crust of bread and the slice of onion he ate tasted better than a thousand banquets. He was lucky to find abundance even in frugality.He lived to the rhythm of the seasons, believing that peace of mind lies in the simplicity of things.It is because he meant to no I’ll to none that he felt safe from aggression until the day that, on the horizon he furnished with his dreams, he saw the approaching storm.They took away his flute and his club. Took away his land and his flock, took away everything that confronted his soul .And now they expect him to believe that comforted his soul . And now they expect him to believe that he was here merely by accident ; they are amazed and angry when he demands a little respect ..Well I disagree ,Monsieur.This land does not belong to you . It belongs to that ancients shepherd whose ghost is standing next to you , though you refuse to see it . Since you do not know how to share ,take your vineyards and you’re bridges ,you’re paved roads and your railway tracks, your cities and your gardens and give back what remains to its rightful owners.’
Somehow there is a language that colonialism , occupation share . It doesn’t matter in which shape it forms itself , there is always this oppressor and oppressed ; occupied and occupier; colonizer and colonized ; a strong and a weak , and at the end of it , no matter what , the victim is blamed , and judged exactly on the same level of the oppressor .
And no matter how long oppression remains , there is not a single time in history , when the oppressed didn’t rise … But history books showed us decades in sentences and centuries in paragraphs .. The blood shed, the time it takes for a revolution to erupt and a new platform to take place might last more than a line or a page of a history book in the daily life we mark …
How much we learn , from that history we are taught , remains a lesson only learnt by others who will read our history ….
Injustice cannot last for eternity …. Just a mere lines in any history book …

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