With sparkling eyes, contagious dimpled laughter, Sarah Ghoula talks enthusiastically about her passion for literature, which shapes her career. “I grew up with books,” she says. I wrote my first stories in elementary school until I participated in several short story contests at university. She studied modern literature at the Sorbonne, then at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris before embracing, by vocation and in the footsteps of a mathematics professor father, the profession of literature teacher.. At the same time, she created Andromède et Persée, a tea brand linked to literary encounters.
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In 2018, she was selected for publication in a collective work by a jury chaired by the Senegalese writer Cheikh Hamidou Kane. “An honor to have been read by the author of Ambiguous Adventure, a book that transcended me,” she says. The award-winning short story tackles with finesse, tenderness and implacable lucidity the destiny of children on the road to exile. As she once again contemplated writing from the perspective of a little boy, it was ultimately the story of an elderly woman, Zohra, who stood out for Our silences are immensefirst novel published last May.
Humility and depth
“It was born when I was wondering about these figures of old African women, who find themselves alone in France or elsewhere, and whose life we don’t know, explains the young author. A common history is then projected onto them, those of women who immigrated to follow their husbands. But their stories are multiple. These women sometimes got into the habit of silence out of modesty. »
Zohra, the heroine of the novel, turns out to be a healer who played a crucial role in the life of her Algerian village. First marginalized, accused of being cursed, before starting to take care of her family. A woman of power, sometimes admired, sometimes feared, she traces her path, not without facing various obstacles when she is led, at the dawn of the wars of independence, to leave for the city. With an unanswered question: what to do with our legacies and how to perpetuate them?
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A question that has arisen for several years, Sarah Ghoula. Daughter of parents who grew up in the south-east of Algeria, at the gates of the desert, she was inspired by exchanges on both sides of the Mediterranean to nourish this first work. Second of a sibling of four children, born in Noisiel in Île-de-France, the charismatic young woman is one who breaks silences to better grasp the hidden springs. In Touggourt and Djamaa, she questions her aunts. “They told me crazy stories. And in their way of speaking, they use a lot of metaphors, silences, innuendos. This imagination and this language, transmitted in Arabic, Sarah Ghoula transcribed them through fiction, in French. A way for this granddaughter of an imam ancestor and poet, who nourished the character of Mokhtar, to preserve a heritage and to share it, with humility and depth.
Faithfulness to the spoken word
This fidelity to the way in which the stories are transmitted to her is a crucial concern in the creativity of one who has just left the public service to devote herself to writing. She summons, in her novel, the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, proclaiming “Register! I am Arab. “I introduce it, explains the great reader, to say that this part of the world also exists. The Algerian war is always told from the big cities. However, Algeria is plural. »
Her story is anchored in a spatio-temporal framework that the author wanted to approach more by the atmosphere than by dates. “Because that’s how I was told about this period from this remote village which feels the Algerian war coming, but does not name it. And as Nabil Bereriche, one of the editors of Hidden Faces, aptly puts it, seduced by the “charismatic and very sensitive” pen of Sarah Ghoula: “We recognize quality writing by its ability to tell a world bigger than that of the story being told. This is what happens with [ce livre] : the stakes of the characters tend towards the universal. »
The novel also tells us about the power of action of silences on the present. And Sarah Ghoula concludes: “I am also addressing the new generations. Certainly Zohra does not have the diplomas, but she has knowledge and stories that should not be denigrated. Let us be more at peace with our heritages. And I also wanted to tell those who know nothing of our migratory trajectories to stop walling themselves up behind prejudices. If we continue to impose silences, they end up haunting the future in one way or another. »
Our silences are immense, by Sarah Ghoula, ed. Hidden faces, 168 pages, 14 euros