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Abderrahman Budda Hamadi: Lágrimas de Alegría [Tears of Joy]
Inevitably, there are not many novels from Western Sahara. Indeed, fiction written by natives of the area is very limited. While this may be classified as a novel, it is only fifty-four pages long and, while written in the form of a novel with a story (presumably semi-autobiographical), it is as much a tribute to the country and the people of the country as a work of fiction. Inevitably, as has happened to the people of Western Sahara, when your country has been occupied by an alien power, this is going to be the main if not the only theme of your fiction.
Meimuna, Salma and Ahmed, two sisters and a brother, now living in Mauritania, have not seen their mother for a long time. As we later learn, she was too ill to travel when Western Sahara was invaded and she was taken prisoner by the Moroccans and now lives in what they call the occupied territories, i.e. the territories of Western Sahara under Moroccan occupation. However, she is now able to travel and they, together with their neighbour Abderrahman, plan to go and meet her. The book recounts their travels. It is a simple story, as Budda extols the beauties of the country. They meet Polisario guerrillas, who are kind, helpful and generous. We also gradually learn about their past and a little bit about the history of the occupation of the country by Morocco. Inevitably, the book takes a very anti-Moroccan stance and also wonders why the country has not been given its freedom (which it still has not).
There is one glitch to their plans. The Paris-Dakar Rally is to take place and it is coming through Western Sahara territory. Although the rally has sought permission from the Moroccan authorities, it has not done so from the Western Saharan authorities. The people of Western Sahara felt that this is an affront to their sovereignty and have threatened to attack the participants. This will put the meeting between Meimuna, Salma and Ahmed and their mother at risk. As a result, when they arrive at the place where they are to meet their mother, there is a risk that they will be moved on. While there, they meet a group from MINURSO, including a Salvadoran who describes his tears of joy at his brief meeting with his father, a guerrilla, when he was a child.
This is certainly not a great work of literature but it is a fascinating insight into a people that most of the rest of the world know little about and an albeit very partial account of their lives, their history, their country and their political problems. It is not, of course, available in English. Indeed, it is not easy to obtain in Spanish, being published by a small association in Valencia. However, if you do read Spanish and can get hold of a copy, it is worth reading – it won’t take you long – to learn about these people and their country.
First published 2007 by Associació Al-Amal De Solidaritat Amb El Poble Sahrauí, Valencia
No English translation