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Abdelhamid Benhadouga: ريح الجنوب (Le vent du sud) [The Wind from the South]

This novel covers two traditional themes – the conflict between the generations and the older, traditional ways versus the modern ways, and post-war issues of whether to forgive and forget or whether revenge should be taken against those that did not contribute to the conflict. The novel is set in an Algerian village soon after the Algerian Revolution, when Algeria gained its independence from France. Abed Belkadi is the (moderately) rich landowner. He is married to Kheira and has a son, Abdelkader, and a daughter, Nafissa. His daughter Zouleikha and son, Hussein, were killed during the Revolution. Zouleikha was engaged to Malek, a former revolutionary fighter and now the mayor. Abed had brought Malek and Zouleikha together, primarily to get Malek, a revolutionary leader, on his side. The revolutionaries had planted a bomb, intended to blow up a military train. Unfortunately, a standard passenger train came in its place and was destroyed. Zouleikha was a passenger on the train and she was killed. To gain his revenge, Abed reported the revolutionaries to the French and the result was massive retaliation, including a bombing raid, which hit Abed’s house, killing Hussein and badly wounding the visiting Malek. Malek suspects Abed of having informed but has no evidence. However, he has not visited since.

Malek is now worried that some of his land might be confiscated as part of a forthcoming agrarian reform. His daughter, Nafissa, is as beautiful as her sister, and Abed plans to bring her and Malek together. Nafissa, however, has been studying in Algiers and has just come home for the holidays. She has absolutely no desire to stay home and no desire to marry. All she wants to do is to return to Algiers. This inevitably causes serious conflict with her parents and this conflict is one of the key themes of the novel. There are a variety of sub-plots going on as well. The Revolution has not been forgotten. There is a ceremony to open a special cemetery for those who were killed serving the Revolution and disputes as to who qualifies. We follow the stories of a few other people. Aunt Rahma is now an old woman and not long for the world. It was she who looked after Malek when he was wounded and she now makes pottery for sale. She still acts as a counsellor to several people. Rabah is the Belkadis’ shepherd. However, when Nafissa talks to him, he mistakenly thinks she is attracted to him. When he tries to get in to her bedroom one night, he is rejected with cries of dirty shepherd. He immediately decides to give up the profession of shepherd and become a wood seller. This has various repercussions. Finally, there is the wise old coffee seller, Ammi al Hadj, who observes all that is going on.

This is certainly not a great novel but it does gives us a good portrait of Algeria soon after the Revolution and the clash between the old and the new, both as regards traditional practices versus modern ones as well as regards the socio-political changes taking place. Its slightly melodramatic plot is also well done. And, of course, you can read this book in Arabic, French,Slovenian and Spanish but not in English.

Publishing history

First published in Arabic by al-Mu’assasah al-Watanīyah lil-Kitāb in 1970
No English translation
First published in French as Le Vent du Sud by Société Nationale d’Edition et de Diffusion in 1970
Translated by Marcel Bois
First published in Spanish as El Viento del Sur by Instituto Hispano-Arabe de Cultura in 1981
Translated by Marcelino Villegas