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Mohammed Dib: Qui se souvient de la mer (Who Remembers the Sea)

This is Dib’s best-known and probably best novel. It is also the one of the few translated into English. It is set in a decaying colonial city, clearly meant to represent France as a colonial power. Strange things are happening in the city. The sea of the title, for example, from being very noisy suddenly becomes quiet, with only the gentle lapping of the waves audible. Gradually, another city starts appearing, mainly coming into being at night. This clearly represents the Algerian resistance to French colonialism. This new city gradually takes on a life of its own and the citizens, particularly the narrator and his wife, have to react to these new events.

Once again, Dib transforms a key event into a mythic story, where nothing is what it seems and everything is unreal, both to the narrator and the reader. And he does it such a magical way that we cannot fail to see his message, even though there is no direct mention of the Algerian revolution. And the sea? It disappears but the narrator remembers it. It is a shame that this is the one of the few books of Dib’s translated into English but, as it is, take advantage of it.

Publishing history

First published in French by Éditions du Seuil in 1962
First published in English by Three Continents Press in 1985
Translated by Louis Tremaine