Home / news / Untouchables .. The novel of Mauritania’s Bedouin nostalgia and the urban paradox

Untouchables .. The novel of Mauritania’s Bedouin nostalgia and the urban paradox

When he was 12 years old, he signed Victor Hugo’s book “Les Misérables” in his hands in French; The child Embarek Ould Birouq had no problem reading it, as his father at the time was among the men who were counting on the fingers who were studying French in the 1950s.

The boy fell in love with the French language, and he who comes from an educated family, lives in the city of Atar (northern Mauritania), which is known for its ethnic diversity, and since then began his journey in the world of the language of Moliere.

The ease of obtaining books in the French language played a great role in the depth of Embarek Born in French, driven by a passion that began at a young age, and these things combined to make him later one of the most prominent Mauritanian writers in the French language, but the topic of desert life in his native country is still his literary preoccupation.

The novels of Embark born Berrok found resonance internationally In 2016 he won the Chroma Prize for his novel “The Drum of Tears”, which is one of the largest prizes given to the book of the Francophone novel. Most of the novel’s events take place in the desert space, with its symbolic, cultural and social implications in Mauritanian society. The atmosphere of the novel and its events and heroes reflect the state of attraction Between the connection to the values ​​of nomadism and the desert, responding to the requirements of the questions of the present and looking forward to dreams for the future


In his new novel, “Outcasts,” as in the stories of Peruc that preceded it, the characters are subject to the transformations taking place in Mauritania, a country that is contested by ancient desert traditions and the changes brought about by modernization that are difficult to stand against.

The French Mediapart site, in a review written by Jean-Le Simaan, reviews the novel “pariahs” by the Mauritanian writer Mubarak Ould Birouq, which revolves around the fate of a father and his son, portraying them as two lost people, condemned to the memory of a happy past, but it is gone forever.

Mubarak Beroc was born, a francophone novelist in the country of a million poets (Al-Jazeera)

And in a few lines, one of the characters of the novel summarizes to us all the sad beauty she lost, when she remembers somewhere in the novel with regret, “We were very happy that night, and in the days and months that followed, we rushed to the big barbecue … We swallowed very big bites of Bliss, and we may have consumed our full share of happiness there. “

The first thing the reader discovers is this Bedouin “father” who writes to his wife and explains to her in a flowing manner how he lied to her, out of his love for that civilian girl who is looking for a social position, hiding his Bedouin origins from her.

Embarrassing relationship

Thus, the novel penetrates us into this shameful intimate relationship of a man from the desert struggling to erase his identity, so he becomes smaller in the eyes of his wife and relatives and look at him with contempt, and his son-in-law treats him like any fraudster.

In the midst of this revelation, a more dramatic moment unfolds, when it appears that this man who admits his mistakes and grieves over the happiness he lost has become in prison, while this woman also disappeared.

While the father tries to compile his life story in his cell, his teenage son finds himself compelled to learn to live without his parents, and with the progress of the novel and the exchange of the story of the two characters through its chapters, the path of the father and son appears in contradiction in terms of form and content.

If the monologue of the father himself resembles the long elegy of a man trying to silence his demons, then the story of his son takes the appearance of an educational novel; Her main themes are the end of childhood, the loss of innocence, and the difficult entry into society, and her plot captures the painful family identity problem divided between a nomadic life and a sedentary lifestyle.

The father and son stories share in common that they depict all the violence of this society, which is in transition. A large part of the story takes place in a poor neighborhood called “Kilometer 7 ″”, a term that dehumanizes this urban life formed from physical and symbolic violence.

These meanings become clearer if we know that this place is the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott, where the cemetery bears the name “Kilometer 7, as if the story is taking place in a place that has no name, which suggests the loss of the country in the novel, as the writer explains.

Jean-le-Simaan believes that this is one of the stylistic features of Walid Beroux, a Mauritanian journalist and writer who writes in French, where everything in the stories of the father and son is my guess, and nothing is certain, as we find talk about deviation and the madness of the father, but we know very little about him. .

Thus, silent violence appears throughout the text, as the writer says, as the heroes of the story went through a tragedy that shattered their lives, but we only see it through its irreversible consequences, and suddenly a description of that frightening night when “that” happened, as the son says, appears between the folds of the narration.

Confronting urban violence

In the face of this violence, both the father and the son try to resort to magic, starting with dreams and even the world of the jinn, where the father remembers his family as true episodes of his past life. As for the subject of that tragic night, when “it happened” he only remembers his son The dream that he dreamed of that night.

In this sense, the Bedouin way of life becomes a reassuring and familiar element in the face of the hostility of the urban environment, as the story of Ould Biruk also takes the form of a social tale about contemporary Mauritania. In the title, “the untouchables” means the Bedouins, those nomads who are on the verge of extinction, and who are trying at all costs to preserve the remnants of their identity, as the writer puts it.

In the novel, Born Berruk describes a society divided between the Bedouins and those who have already lived in urban areas for several generations.

The writer concluded that Ould Birouk’s novel reveals a lot about Mauritania, but its scope is wider, noting that it was the aspiration for urban success that drove the father to madness and left him torn away from his happiness.

Source : Al Jazeera + French Press + Mediapart

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