Keywords: Tlemcen, Paris, TV, Alsace-Lorraine, 'communautarisme', anti pied-noir sentiments
Interview for the Ecomusée du Val de Bièvres
Exposition Pieds noirs ici, la tête ailleurs Date : 1 June 2011
Interviewer: Juliette Spire
Inventory number : 2011.2
Jeanne Licht: Profession : retired.
Juliette Spire: So you used to work in Television ?
JL : I used to be a teacher in Algeria, and when we came here … well we were based in Tlemcen, a town which had a larger Arab population than European population. Like Oran with the Spanish. It also had a very large Jewish population. So, when we left, during the Algerian War, there was the curfew at 5pm. Imagine, with the weather like this, we went home at 5 o’clock in the afternoon and we heard bullets flying, we really made the most of it. And, what was I going to say. Well, when we went back, well I hadn’t gone to university, it was … in the middle of the Algerian War, to go to Algiers, it was … and my parents weren’t rich either, you know! And so, when I arrived, I had worked as a primary school teacher for around 2 or 3 years over there, I can’t remember how much time precisely. I came here and I was assigned to work in the Nord ‘département’.
So over there, you see, where we had been so young, we couldn’t go out … well, when we went out it was our parents’ permission, and you had to all sleep somewhere where you had been invited because, I’m telling you, we had to live with the curfew for years. And so, when we arrived here, in Paris, it was a hub of activity! All we had to do was go to Place de la République, or something like that, and there were pieds-noirs everywhere. Some who were like us, who didn’t have family in France, in the metropole. They were arriving and didn’t know where to go, where to land. And so, as chance would have it, I met a girl, not even a friend, who was also from Tlemcen. But, you know, when you are there and you don’t know anyone, you make friends quickly. And she was there, she had started – she arrived earlier than me, since I had got there in June 1962, just before independence. My parents wanted me to go first, and so I arrived, I met her, and she told me ‘I’m working in television and they’re hiring. They needs temps to work in the salary services, money and all that’. Dreadful, but there you go. It was a last resort in the sense that I had been there in July and August and I didn’t know where to go. In the end, I met my best friend, who is from Corsica. I had just rang her on the phone and she took me under her wing, you know. At the end of the day, bit by bit, I sat the entry exams, I worked at the cinémathèque (film library) in Television, I did loads of things at the TV because I like to take risks each time. And so I did a lot of interesting work, and worked like that. I left TV in the 1990s because I couldn’t stand working in an office like TF1, with Bouygues (telecommunications company). I was so put off that I stopped watching the channel. So there you have it.
JS : Okay. Let’s maybe try and start from the beginning …
JL : Wait, should I put my address?
JS : Yes, please.
JL : Or afterwards ?
JS : Yes … Well, if we could start from the beginning actually, if you could tell me a little about your family origins in Algeria ?
JL : Absolutely. Well, I rang my 85-year-old cousin on the phone, he’s in the Midi, asking him, could you give me the date of birth of our paternal grand-mother. So, my family name is Licht which means ‘Light’ in German. Mon grandfather, who was a pharmacist, his mother was the wife of a doctor, who lived in the Lorraine. By 1870, she’d had it with being German, French, German, French. Her husband had died leaving her a widow with three sons, one of them being my grand-father. She certainly said to herself - at that point they were encouraging metropolitans to leave and colonise Algeria, and she said to herself, when they arrived in Nancy – who, when it came to people from Alsace-Lorrain, I feel had the same attitude as people in Marseille and other metropolitans had towards us. I mean that they were rather … they told her to go back to her country, more or less. So, she took her three kids by the hand, they were small, and she left for Algeria, settling in Tlemcen. And there you have it.
This man, who was called Adolf Licht, married my grandmother, who was called Jeanne Bedoin. And Jeanne Bedoin, her grandfather was born in a hamlet which was called Sidi-Chami in 1845. So, you see, I go back very, very far.
On my mother’s side, my maternal grandmother as well as my paternal grandmother, we have old roots in Algeria. My maternal grandmother, unfortunately I never asked her the right questions, she was born over there. She was called Lucie Collon, no, Lucie Corbière. She had married a man called Jules Collon. Jules Collon, he was in the military, he had been in the war there, and well finally, she married him over there. So, you see, my pied-noir roots are due to my two grandmothers.
There you go, what else can I tell you about my background … on both sides it goes back quite far. So after ….
JS : And what was daily life like before the events?
JL : Listen, eh … one of the things we were criticised for when we arrived here was that we never mixed. But for me, I can state – I won’t allude to the ‘odeurs de Chirac’ [19 June 1991 Speech by Jacques Chirac] – but I will state one thing : in the 9-3 [Seine-Saint-Denis], there is not as much cohabitation among Maghrebins, black people, and all that, that you still find in the same housing estates. Black people and Maghrebins who didn’t necessarily live with the local bourgeois, or, whatever. So we were, yes, I think that we were, if you like …
My grandfather was a pharmacist, he had travelled about a fair bit, married my grandmother who was 20, 30 years younger than him, I don’t remember. My father, he finished high school, and as far as the relationships with the local Arabs is concerned, when he went to school there were around 15, and then my father and another, so you see, there were two Europeans [in the class]! Since, we were called Europeans, because we could be Spanish, Jewish, or …. Even before the Crémieux decree. So, for my father, his friends were Arabs, the Arabs from the small village we lived in, Mansoura. And my father left high school having studied literary Arabic, which is not an easy language. Us, My parents had insisted that we, with my sister – so, my mother spoke Arabic fluently, and my father, well if he wore the ‘burnous’ you couldn’t tell if he was Arab or French. And we, with my sister, had English as first language, and dialectal Arabic as our second. So I could read and write, although I’ve forgotten it all. But I mean, I can still read things, on the TV for example, very quickly. There are words that I don’t understand, because its Egyptian or Iranian or I don’t know what. But I mean, the alphabet is practically the same except for some letters which aren’t the same, or which have been introduced by the ‘Arabists’, because before there were letter that didn’t exist in Arabic before, and now, well. There you go. And my father, I tell you, my father also went to an agricultural school, since he was from the countryside, and he was, you know that the water over there, and we speak of drought! You know that the water over there, it was so important, and my father handled the water allocation. And I know that my father always said, watering his garden, that it’s not because I’m the president that I should be served before the others.
JS : The president of?
JL : The President of the Water Authority. You see, to ensure that the water … that gardens were irrigated, so there was a network. So, if you were Mrs Whoever, you’d be there from one o’clock to two o’clock, another, three o’clock to four o’clock, and so on. It was always in the middle of the night, that my father watered his field, to avoid, precisely, serving himself before everyone else.
And the number of people, over there, there were very few … in Tlemcen, it was a typical Arab and Jewish town. So, we were all mixed with the Arabs, and there were many more of them than us. And my father, as the President of the Water Authority, he organised the distribution of water and the number of people who came, Arabs … who were rich people, because often we talk about the ‘pieds-noirs’ and it seems that all the Arabs were poor. All! Well. I can tell you the names of a number of them, the Bel Khalfas, the Ben Yelès, well, that I went back to see again, because I went back to Algeria twice. All these people were rich! And they were richer than my father! But they trusted him … he was the educated man in the village. And they deeply trusted him. When, if they started to try to give my father ‘backsheesh’ [tips] for more water, or more of this and that, my father put an end to it.
My father, for example, you know, even in the Midi these days, we say that ‘we take the air’ [‘on prend le frais’], in other words, that when the weather’s good, in the evening we’ll sit out and chat and all that ! On that note, I have stories about the house in the Midi, about people who were out ‘taking the air’ and were saying awful things about the ‘pieds-noir’ and that I was at the window, about to close it ! If I forget, you’ll reminder me.
And so, my father, he was there, coming back from the fields, systematically, and I mean the well-off Arabs, passed by and spoke with my father, and my father loved to speak Arabic, he was a bit like a scholar, you see. Even when it came to plants, he looked into making a vaccine against mildew, things like that. He didn’t succeed, it was too late by the time he got here [France]. And then since he didn’t have a degree, although he was an engineer … so there you go. He had tried to send the research that he had to done to France, to the metropole, all the vaccines that he had made. He had done experiments on a range of trees that had been treated, on ones that hadn’t been treated and all that, to see the results, well.
All of that, you know now, there’s a lot of talk about women because of the DSK affair etc, so I mean, we have a way of seeing things and we struggle to try and think that we can go to the left, look to the left, look the right, and see that there are things that were different. So we’ve arrived at the point, let’s go, ‘pieds-noirs’, nationalist, capitalist, racist, I can’t remember the ‘–ists’ … Because I mean to say that we couldn’t not mix together. Because at the moment, what do we see? With the rise of Islam, what do we see? Girls who wear the veil, and I refer to the veil, I’m not talking about the chador and all that. In Algeria, the women wore the ‘haïk’, which was a white veil, and I can’t describe it any better, a white sheet, you see, you could only see the brow and the eye, like that. So, there you go. I saw this, do you think that – and my friend, when she was in class at the High School in Tlemcen, would wear a haïk like that. But she wore trousers like me. It was the start and all that. And I would go into the parlor, and would pull down the haïk, because outside if they saw the ends of her trousers, that would have been, well. And you think that her brothers would have married me, the French ‘pied-noir’ woman? I don’t think so.
So there also, we have to see that when they say that we didn’t mix together, it’s true that we didn’t mix. But nor did they. We didn’t mix together. Even the Jews from Algeria, I can speak about the Jews of Tlemcen, you didn’t see Jews marry an Arab or a Catholic. So I mean, it was communities. But I don’t like to use the word community because now, you see, they talk about ‘communautarisme’ [multiculturalism]. And it has nothing to do with each other, community and ‘communautarisme’.
But we saw each other. I still remember, one winter at Tlemcen, that was a big ball at the Red Cross. It was the only thing where my mother could wear her party dress. Well, we were all pleased, my sister and I, to see her looking so pretty that day. Well, she went the Red Cross, and there was Doctor Tébal, who was a friend of my father. And actually, it was thanks to Doctor Tébal that my parents fled like thieves in the night in 1964 – I can’t remember the exact date – because he came to see them and told them: they’re going to come and see and you are going to have to choose to stay here and take Algerian citizenship, or you’re only other choice is to leave. So there. And Doctor Tébal, he was at the Red Cross, and he said to my father ‘Can I dance with Gladys?’, my mother, and my father said yes to Doctor Tébal, come with your wife and we can … you see? I didn’t make all that up! All that, these are the things that they said, all that, these … I don’t mean to repeat rumours! But it’s … these are things that happened! It’s all the same.
And now with all these stories at the moment, the DSK affair, I don’t know if you’ve heard the story about Luc Ferry … I don’t mean to say that they’re all the same. But there are rumours, there are things. And there are true and false things. The politicians, I’m not saying that we should throw them all in the bin! Well. I mean, in my family anyway, there are very well-behaved people while they had … how to put it … jobs that allowed them to have little romances from time to time, or harassment, or things like that.
But this generalisation that people always make, that people are all like that ! I can’t do it. I want to note a name, Coline Serreau. Coline Serreau, who has said awful things about the ‘pieds-noirs’, five or six years ago. Well after her film Trois Hommes et un Couffin [Three Men and a Baby]. Recently! But I mean where could she come from with that? I was also revolted by a documentary made by an English documentary film-maker, I think his name is ‘Laming’ – L-A-M-I-N-G – or something like that, who made a film on the subject of Algeria. And said that the beaches were off limits to Arabs and to dogs. Listen! I don’t know where he saw that, but I never saw that! There never was Apartheid in Algeria. When we took the coach to go to Oran, when we didn’t have a car or trains to get there – we were all mixed. At Mensoura, because Tlemcen was the town and Mensoura the hamlet where I lived, a very, very pretty little village, it was three kilometres away. There was a shuttle bus, in the bus, it was never Arabs at the back and Europeans at the front, we were all mixed!
If I ever saw the housekeeper, our Aïcha who lived I don’t know where, who was walking home loaded like a donkey, if I met her on the road, let me tell you that I took her home to her village ! I mean, there it seems like … well, there was a neighbour to one side, who called my sister a ‘paternaliste’ [patronising, paternalistic]. Because, you see, it was certainly paternalist what I was doing. There used to be two Arabs, one from Mostaganem, so not far, and the other was Moroccan or something like that. And the one from Mostaganem was called Mohammed. When he was working in the ally, when he had something to ask, if I ever saw him by the window, if it was winter I would say [in Arabic] ‘Do you want some coffee?’ or [in Arabic] if it was summer, well … he didn’t knock at the door, but if he wanted water or whatever, he didn’t go to the communists over the way, he came to my house! Me, the ‘pied-noir’! And he knew I was a ‘pied-noir’.
The binmen from Fresnes, I tell you, when they come over, I natter with them, a bit in Arabic, a bit in French, all the words that I remember. Because he knows that I’m ‘pied-noir’. And whenever my husband says ‘oh you should have put in the cardboard, cut them up’ things like that … I say, shut up, this is my friend he’ll take them. Well, he knows what I give him as tips, I give him, well, a bit of money. It’s not for … it’s because I know moreover that he had a disabled child, and so if I can … but that, that’s ‘paternalism’! And I’ve never heard, if you’ve ever heard said of the ‘pieds-noirs’, of a fundamental quality of the ‘pieds-noirs’, maybe we’ll talk about it a little later, being the conviviality that we inherited from the Arabs, that we inherited from our ‘melting-pot’ over there, from the Spanish, from the Jews, from … our melting-pot.
JS : Precisely on this point, you were saying that there was a Jewish and Arab community, were there Spanish in the village where you lived ?
JL : No. Only, in the village where we were, we were only ‘Français de souche’ [term for so-called ethnically French people] [She laughs], Catholics, I mean, Catholics and Protestants, since my father’s family were all Protestants. And there were Arabs. But there weren’t any Jews in Mansoura. On the other hand, in Tlemcen there was a large Jewish community, and besides that I will say …
JS : The distance between Mansoura and Tlemcen ?
JL : Three kilometres. When I wanted, from time to time, to go with my grandmother - who wasn’t overly religious, not at all, she was a believer – I went with her in the morning, six o’clock in the morning [Laughter], you had to go down from Mansoura to get to Tlemcen – by the way, the Church in Tlemcen, it became, not the ‘fondouk’, no, the ‘souk’, it didn’t become a mosque. For us, that hurt us even if we weren’t believers, me and my sister, we aren’t believers. But well, it hurt us to see that the Tlemcen church had become a ‘souk’, you know. But … and then the Mansoura cemetery, that became a camping site ! So, uh, … well, I mean … there you go. But what did I want to say?
Yes, with my family name, Licht, uh … I think that if I was Jewish, I would know it. Because my grandfather was from Alsace-Lorraine, he spoke German ‘patois’, uh, Alsatian, spoke Germany very well, spoke English very well, had a friend who was a Rabbi… who arrived in Algeria at the same time as him, well, as us, as my family. He was a good friend of the Rabbi, and when the Rabbi died – an adult, you know, they were both adults – there was a long cortege, a long black sheet, and Jewish and Catholics held the cord, they were many of them, and my grandfather held the cord, when the Rabbi died.
JS : And so you lived here from what age, for context?
JL : I was born in 1938, so I’m 73 years old. I went back in 1962, so when I was 24. So from my birth to 24 years old. And my friends, Michel Amar, with whom I lost contact, Amaria, one of my childhood friends called Louis Cochet, who lives in Figeac and works as a physiotherapist – you know, with the internet now, he rediscovered old schoolmates from the Slan highschool in Tlemcen, and he was asked to come and teach classes over there, for free. So, they paid for his travel and accommodation, but he’ll give classes. He’s got to come back now, you see, he’s been for two or three months, and now must come back. Why am I telling you this? I don’t know!
JS : So we were here: you were there from zero to 24.
JL : Ah, from zero to 24 years old … I have … and there well, if you want, I’ll say: this term ‘communautarisme’ [multiculturalism], I don’t like it very much, because I don’t adhere to the ideas of ‘pieds-noirs’ because there are ‘pieds-noirs’ who are racist. But I’m telling you my own story. And my parents were on the right! They were not on the left, you know? And me, I never saw my mother … You see, the thing that really shocked me when we arrived here, they all called us racists towards the Arabs, they told us what we had done …. And well, I’ll tell you: me, my father had two or three Arab workers, my mother had a housekeeper, Aïcha, that she kept the whole time.
JS : She didn’t work, you mothers?
JL : No, she was a home-maker. And first there was Mina, there was also Mina, I could tell you her story, she was black. She was captured by the ‘fellagas’ because they had forbidden her to work in our house, so she left. One day, my father, I don’t know how he met her, but he hid her, and she told us that she had been taken by the ‘fellagas’ who wanted to kill her and she said, for once, I was happy to be black because I hid myself in a place that I could describe to you because I know where it is, and it’s because I’m black that they didn’t find me, and because you hid me afterwards that … But Aïcha, who was afterwards … well, I mean, we always had the same people. But I know also neighbours, there, not far, metropolitan, French women, living in Fresnes who were constantly changing housekeepers! And when the housekeepers told them, look, there’s a Mrs Whoever, who’s looking for two hours of cleaning – well I could tell you the name of the housekeeper, who is dead now but who was Spanish and who worked for my sister all the time –Mamita, as we called her, when my sister, one day, coming back from school (because she was a school teacher), she said you know Mamita, there’s a Mrs Whoever who is looking for a woman to do two hours of housework. And this lady was at my sister’s house, and Mamita said, oh no, no, no, my dear. She used ‘tu’ with my brother-in-law who was 1m84 (6ft), an army man, and who’s retired now. And she used ‘tu’ with my sister, she said, no, no, my dear, that’s fine. And the day after, when she got to the house, my sister asked her, wait Mamita, why … she said, work at her house? Never! And well, that doesn’t exist in France, people like that … [inaudible]! Me, when I arrived and I began to work in television, I saw Mr Dupont or Mr Durand treat Mrs Durand, who worked as his secretary, as less than worthless! After they said “racism”, that, I mean, I can’t stand it!
JS : On this point, we are going to perhaps to get ahead of ourselves, could you tell me about when you began to think about leaving, or if it was sudden, like, at the start of the ‘events’, because after it’s quite a long period. Could you tell me about your family’s journey?
JL : Well, I’ll tell you: it was … my father was a farmer, uh … He had excellent relationships with the Arabs, there was never any friction, never any … They called my father ‘chibani’, because he was old, well he had white hair. That means ‘old’ in Arabic, and he knew practically, my parents came at the end of 1964. So you see my parents never wanted to leave Algeria. Because my father was not rich and the only wealth he had was the small property that they had, that’s all! Moreover, at that time, for my whole childhood, I heard stories about retirement. Well, so I tell you, they were … we had a house which was built by my great-grandfather, besides now, I know that it doesn’t exist anymore because the house has been rebuilt and my friend – who I told you about just now, who gives Physiotherapy classes in Algeria – he told me, you wouldn’t recognise the old house, there was wisteria, there were things, I mean, there was a huge tree, and … everything had been cut down, and now there is a 2m-high wall, higher even. And so I tell you, this house, it had a kitchen, a dining room, and two bedrooms. The bathroom was built, I don’t know when, I must have had 10, 12 years old! So, you see, it was 1948-1950! We took baths, it was like in the ‘hammams’, we had a large water basin which was in the laundry room, we heated the water on the – it was my grandmother who did that – she heated the water and bit by bit poured in water, brought water, and we did it every Saturday, but well, we were like … there also, I mean, the reputation that Arabs were dirty. I never saw Arabs who were, but clean like it’s not allowed! Beside, look now, how there is an enthusiasm for the ‘hammams’, well! Rhassoul, you had beautiful hair with rhassoul and all that! I … You discover this culture.
I tell you, my ex-husband worked in TV, he was a TV director. He had to make some TV shows in Algeria, it must have been, I don’t know, 1968-1969. And there was some money from the Algerian Television, if you like, these people said to my husband, we’ll pay for your travel, and he said, well yes, my wife is ‘pied-noir’. And, so we were, for those years, in Algeria, and if you could have seen the welcome we received! But I promise you, I don’t know, they talk about footballers arriving I don’t know where, well. It was, well, fabulous! And when in 1982, 20 years later, one of my friends was editor-in-chief of TV news on 3, who told me, like, you’re blond, you speak Arabic, it would be good if you came, because there as well, the ‘pieds-noirs’ are olive-skinned – I have olive-skin okay – olive-skin, brown hair, there weren’t blonds with blue eyes! The whole Ben Yelès family, they were my friends, with whom I played, and Ben Haldidja, all of them, they were all blond with green eyes. The were beautiful, these girls. But no, Arabs, they are like that. And so, there, in 1982, so, I said, what’s more, my daughters were small, I said no to my friend, but listen, speak to my sister. And my sister had been a school teacher for a few years over there. If you could have seen the welcome she had as well! And moreover, the way, if you like, it almost makes me cry [She cries]. There were people who had known my parents, especially my father! It was … fabulous! What they said about him. And my mother was a teacher in Mansoura, she had … [She cries]
JS : Would you like to take a break?
JL : No, it’ll be fine. She had children, boys and girls with whom she had been in class. So when … she had htem in class, there as well! There, they also say, (I don’t know if many said it), but in any case, the Arab father or mother, when they come to talk with my sister, what do you think, what do you think of my child, and in Arabic they say [sentence in Arabic], in other words, if ever they don’t work, give them a slap. You see, could you imagine if we had said that? Well, and when she arrived in 1982, she had a wonderful memory, and then when you’re a school techer and you like your job, you remember certain children. Well, there, she also had a wonderful welcome. Incredible! And you see, my physiotherapist friend, I saw him two weeks about, he’s going back, well, he wa telling me, listen, when you speak to people our age, one-on-one, they have never failed to say to me, what a shame it is that you left, that you left us, and now, we miss you. But as soon as someone else comes, it is not mentioned again. And when I went back, I tell you, it was soon after Independence in 1968, so you could say it was recent. But my sister, in 1982! And after I went with her, we took a plane which was full of ‘pieds-noirs’ from Sidi-Bel-Abbès, from all over, that was full precisely to return over there. And everyone said to us, but why didn’t you stay? Why did you leave? I mean, there was as much grief on their side as on ours.
Also, when I hear, for example, Madame Assia Djebar, to not name her, who is now a member of the Académie Française : do you think that if the French had not been there in Algeria, certain French in Algeria, if there hadn’t been, because there we will also talk about education. Well, if she hadn’t spoken the French language and all that, do you think she would now be an ‘académicienne’? She doesn’t stop – once I was in my car, I was listening to France Inter or France Culture, I don’t know which, and she was saying, yes, I didn’t learn Arabic, the French language was imposed on me, etc. But I said to myself, it’s not possible, where was she? She wasn’t in the ‘bled’! I was in Tlemcen, which was a large town, but smaller than Algiers, Constantine, etc. I could have learnt Arabic! My father who was born in 1902, my father finished high school with literary Arabic, and she talks about not being able to speak Arabic? Well, it’s true, because there were French people over there who were not able to learn …
What I learned from the Arabs … me, I feel different to you because I lived over there! Because I find that I have something else. What I find in addition is the fact to have lived there. Why did she, here, did she not say that? The she has something in addition, if she is an ‘académicienne’, if she has studied, if she has done … it is also thanks to the fact that there was colonisation! Well, I assure you, you know, I’m not, what is the words …
JS : The benefits of …
JL : The benefits of colonisation! Well, excuse me for saying it, but what nonsense. Well, we did many things, but we did do them well enough. Well, but when I was a school-teacher, there were all the same 52 pupils in my class! You see?
JS : And you were a young school teacher!
JL : Yes! You see? And my sister, it’s the same! Well, I’m speaking about myself, but my sister, it’s the same. In my class, we were what, I should have brought out my class photos. But we were, I don’t know, a class of 40 pupils, we were maybe, I don’t know, around 15 Europeans! You see? And the rest, it’s the reason why I loved this one boy who was Arab, who was called Loujdi, how I would love to see him! My friend, there, when he went, the physiotherapist, I told him, you have to go to Rue Eugène Etienne. There was a bicycle shop there, which was run by the brothers of Amaria, who was my friend. I asked him, if you could tell me where she went, all that, but I mean, where is the racism? I mean, his brothers wouldn’t have married me and I wouldn’t have married them! Well, like here, when you live together.
JS : Side by side.
JL : Side by side. Completely, Mansoura, it was a very small village, so we were mixed, you know?
JS : And at primary school? You were all mixed?
JL : Oh completely. There was never, … never, I tell you, my father, his friends were the Arabs of Mansoura! With whom he left in the morning, all together.
JS : And so you didn’t feel like the European girl of the …
JL : On not at all! Not at all! I never, I never felt different! Yes, different, because when I went out with my friend Amaria … It was exactly for that, you see, my daughters and like me are crazy … I am not speaking about the burqua because, I can’t stand it. But even the girls, you see, I see a woman of my age with what we called the Foutha. And that’s normal. You see, I had a housekeeper, she left because she preferred to work in … in office rather than, well. She said to me once, you see me, when she arrived she took off her veil, and she said to me, its as if I was naked if I don’t wear it in the street. That I understand. But the girls you live in, well, and who wear things, but as I’m telling you, religion, when I look at you, I don’t know what you are. If you are religious, if you are not, which religion you practice, if you do not practice. But there, you see them, you know already what they are. Well if you notice them, and after they say, well we are stigmatised. It’s that that annoys me. Well there, you believe that Dati, Rachida Dati, she also no longer wants to see women like that. And I cannot stand it. Because I always think of Amaria! Amaria who told me, you’re lucky. That’s my difference! You are lucky, you who dress like whatever, you … well.
JS : And so, the different religions lived …
JL : Oh, completely! Completely! They used to [sentence in Arabic], what you want, but I mean, no. There, the only thing that used to shock me, but you’ll understand why, it was baptising the boys. The circumcision. There would be these kinds of large, white, sheets, spotless, with loads of blood in the front, you see! And they would walk with spread legs! That, well. I mean, you’re a little girl, it’s shocking for you all the same. But it’s the only thing … But never, never … I never heard my parents say ‘sale race’ [racist insult] or, I don’t know … And, I’m telling you, my parents were right-wing! My parents, they made us learn Arabic! They weren’t communists my parents! They weren’t like … because, for me, as well, I mean, when they talk about Jeanson, when they talk about the ‘porteurs de valise’ [suitcase carriers], I say, luckily, my husband never participated, because he could have! Well. But I say, to give money to these peoples who … to kill a young French child, the young Dupont, the young … Durand, here, well! That, I can’t stand it, you see, no, … But there, as well, I assure you, if Benjamin Stora, or people like that, apologized … But I don’t see why but for me, I never had people around us who wanted us to stay! I never saw …
JS : But then, how did it happen? Because it all began in 1956, well between 1956-1964, how did it happen?
JL : We didn’t notice. We didn’t notice. I mean, yes, we noticed because there was the curfew in … but in Tlemcen, they didn’t murder a whole load of people like … Me, my family, none of us were affected! Well, and it’s not because they were … I could say that it was because they were good people, but I mean, we saw good people who were killed, you know? Well.
JS : What would you say among yourself, eventually, regarding what happened around yourself, because you would have known information all the same!
JL : I’m trying to remember, what would we say … well, there were some people who said that we had to leave, there were some who would say we shouldn’t leave. My father was one of the people that said we should stay, and what’s more, after 1962. There were two Arabs, I don’t know what they were doing, why they were visiting my father, maybe it was for water, I don’t know. And my mother said, laughing, she always called them the ‘fellaghas’. And well, yes, actually they were ‘fellaghas’. And one day, the ‘fellaghas’, after 1962, they said to my father, you know Guy, if you’re alive, it’s because someone sanctioned it. Some people from Morocco were supposed to come and kill you, and we were against it. And they said, the … the ‘roumi’ – the ‘roumi’ means French – the ‘roumi’ with white hair, don’t touch a hair on his head! And so there was …
I say, but there was something else that I was thinking of, I’ve forgotten it. I can’t remember. But I tell you, my parents would have wanted to continue to live other there, but well, it was no longer possible, I mean! Because of the Doctor Tébal, who came, and who said, well there you go! And there, my parents who, in 1964 – I’m telling you nonsense, I don’t remember the date they came back, uh … they decided in the afternoon to leave it all behind. So, there were no more French people in Mansoura, they had shut up the house, my father had a small van, a camionnette 203, I don’t know a Peugeot, they covered it all up in tarpaulin, and what they could bring back, they brought back. So, for me, I tell you, I had already gone to France, when I arrive here, they had lost my suitcase in June 1962 …
JS : You left in 1962?
JL : I left in the 1962.
JS : So why did you leave before then?
JL : Because … my parents were afraid, that they would rape us, that they would kill us, you see! And so I left in 1962. Oh, I remember it very well, it was … I don’t know, 4 o’clock in the morning! We had an ‘Alfrac’ or an ‘Alfrac’, I don’t know what it’s called, before us, a whole convoy of ‘pieds-noirs’, and we left like that. Me, I could see my parents, in the distance, in the fog … and there you go. I took … I was in Oran, in Oran I had to stay on the port for two or three days, oh yes, because there weren’t any places! Because there, you see – I’m going to digress – because when I think of it, I say it. Because– I heard this morning about a boy that had been attacked, you know. Straight away there was what they call ‘psychiatric cells’, well. When there was Gbagbo, the Ivory Coast, etc. they put in place a ‘psychiatric cell’ to welcome people, the French metropoles who had been there, who only worked over there at the time. Us, as I’m telling you, you know, my great-great-grandfather, who was born in 1847, us well, we were over there, when we arrived in France, not a ‘cell’ for this, or a ‘cell’ for that, nor anything at all! You arrive in Marseilles, everywhere you see written ‘pieds-noirs, back to your dump, to your country’, ‘pieds-noirs back to the sea’ … All of that on the port of Marseille. The ‘psychiatric cells’? Ouallou! Nothing.
JS : So you stayed two, three days in Oran?
JL : In Oran, that’s right, I stayed two, three days. Luckily, I had aunts and uncles who were living there, so the evening, I would go and stay with them. I came back, I had a place on the bridge, that’s to say, when I left, I could come back. I was wearing a navy-blue dress, I remember very clearly, a light-blue blouse, and my small bag, my suitcases. I was tanned, like this, you see, like farmers, the sun reflected so much off the sea. And they had lost my suitcase when I arrived, so. Make do, my girl. And then I met …
JS : You disembarked in Marseille?
JL : In Marseille. And after I took the train, there, I can’t tell you in what conditions I took the train, bad? I can’t remember. But it was leaving Algeria that was … leaving my parents … leaving Mansoura! Leaving it all! That was … dreadful, you know.
JS : And you moved straight away to the Paris region?
JL : Straight away! Straight away, because I had a cousin who was in the military, a general, retired now, and who was on stand-by, if I can put it that way, here, and I was able to go and stay with them. But as soon as I could I took a small bedsit.
JS : Where were they?
JL : They were also from Tlemcen.
JS : No, I mean around Paris?
JL : Oh! Boulevard Masséna. In the 13th arrondissement. And so, as soon as I could I found myself a bedsit. So there as well, it makes me laugh all the stories of good women, at the moment, who talk about bottom pinching, or, you see what goes on now, the feminists. Me, I was in this bedsit, and when it was time to pay the landlord, well I will tell you, I would wear my top to there, and the trouser to there, and one day, he nearly had my hand on his face, you see! Well. But that, I didn’t talk about it, you know. And there are plenty of other things about which I’ve never spoken, because it wasn’t done, we didn’t talk about it. But there, you see, I was quite a shy person, quite introverted. Because my mother never told me that I would amount to something in life, she told me, you’re stupid, my girl, you won’t amount to much in life. And her words, you see, that was awful for me, I’ll even say that, even at my age of 73 years old, often I will say to myself, ‘did I really I understand what they’ve just said?’ or … and that’s why that when I watch television or read an article and I hear my husband or someone say, ‘That’s nonsense, I didn’t understand a thing’, it reassures me of my intelligence! And when I got to the television, as well, I could even tell you his name, Gérard Moullet, that I met, who had told me, it’s because of you, the ‘pieds-noirs’ … [a phone rings] my sister and my brother-in-law couldn’t get an apartment! Well, I can’t remember what I was telling you about!
JS : Well, we had just arrived in Paris.
JL : Yes, around Paris, well, uh … so I tell you, I really was very lucky to meet my best friend, who is Corsican. And who has, if you like …
JS : Your best friend from over there?
JL : Not at all. My friends from childhood, apart from my physiotherapist friend, with whom I keep in touch, but … no! And then what’s more, when we left, one after the other, we left so quickly that we lost touch. So me, I’ll tell you that, but I can also tell you about the way in which my sister came over as well.
So, my sister had my nephew, who was 5 years, born in Algeria, my niece – who lives in Vissou – and who was born 17 April 1962. So my brother-in-law was in the army, he said to my sister, go to France and we were all housed by the cousins who I was just talking about, who were also in the army. My cousin, I can’t remember where he was at the time, he said, no, no, come over, we don’t know what it’s going to be like, and my brother-in-law, who is also ‘pied-noir’ but from Tunisia. And so uh … I remember … my sister would have been able to give me the address, my niece was only a month old, uh … we leave Oran, curfew, we leave Oran just after the curfew, we leave by a car brought over by the uncles and aunts who had housed us, who housed us for a month before taking the boat themselves. On arrival, there’s the CRS [riot police] on all sides, all sides, all sides! With their machine guns, it was like that, the arrival. All squashed in under tents, my sister had her daughter, her son, and four kids, our cousins’ children from Mansoura. The twins, they must have been, I don’t know … at least older than my nephew, around 12 years old, and the youngest, I don’t know how old. So she left with six children! And so there, luckily, thanks to a good contact, my sister was able to get on a plane that very day. Because there were lots of people there, who weren’t getting on planes, who were waiting for one, they were waiting for a plane from the metropole sent by the French government to come … you see, the ‘psychological cell’? Well. So there, there was a man who we knew, who was the husband of one of my sister’s childhood friends, Colette Avar, who said, family, you know. And so, it’s was like that that my sister would leave, they had arrived in the morning, it must have been 6 o’clock in the morning and she had left by 5 o’clock in the afternoon! Even with her insider contact, that’s, well! And the others were still waiting!
And when she arrived, well, my brother-in-law was in France, I don’t know how … No, No, she arrived, and it was my cousins who met her and, on the contrary, when my brother-in-law came to France after July 1962, my nephew saw his father, you know, my brother-in-law, who was certainly all dressed up in his military uniform. There was a CRS officer [riot police], with his machine gun, and pushed my nephew so we couldn’t get to my brother-in-law! All that, you see, that leaves a mark! So, if you like, I can tell you that I made – and I’m not saying that I am still, how to put it, cured of my racism in relation to French people form the metropole, because of all that … and the French government in particular! Because when I hear someone close to me, who says to me, but the ‘pieds-noirs’ you could still vote and all that, as I said to them the other day, but hold on, did we vote for laws in France? Laws for Algeria, us, the ‘pieds-noirs’? Actually, my parents, they had the right to vote, yes, the Arabs, they did not have the right to vote. And you think that we, the ‘pieds-noirs’, we could do something over there when we were in France? We had freedom of speech from time to time? When you hear, and this I learned recently, I didn’t know about it before, that Messmer, himself, Pierre Messmer, the Armed Forces Minister at the time, had denied the … how to put it, the ‘dirty race’ of the French army, including my brother-in-law and my cousin as well, would say how the army as well had been vilified to an unbelievable extent! That there are people, that we always see the same photo, the same image of the French man killing a guy coming out of a haima, I don’t know where. Besides, me and my sister, we said to each other, look, it was a photo that was taken during a thing that had nothing to do with Algeria. But systematically, you see a thing about Algeria, you see this guy coming out of his haima and a young … beside it was a young metropolitan who killed him, since he had the little hat like the young metropolitans, like husband who went to war over there, who even stayed there for 28 months, you know? With the ideas that he has, whatever-his-name, etc, there was a whole bund on the right who were for the OAS, and who …
JS : Wasn’t it was mandatory in any case?
JL : Not at all! There were those … I won’t tell you the names of certain lawyers I know, who have died since, who were for the OAS, and who never did their military service over there, who got by, don’t worry. Because the middle-class over there, here, it’s not the same middle-class as the ‘pieds-noirs’, that’s what’s incredible. Over there, you have a status, but it’s not the same here! That knowing contacts, which is very valuable for some people here, is not valuable over there! I mean that, I felt like we were a distinct race.
And so, when my brother-in-law is in tears, I’ll tell you, my brother-in-law, he’s a respected person, when you see him, I swear to you, in retirement, he doesn’t say anything, etc. When he would cry at the idea of not being able to repatriate the Arabs who had fought in the war with him over there. And that, you see, it’s always with ‘pieds-noirs’. When they tell you that the rich ‘pieds-noirs’ – because apparently there were only rich ‘pieds-noirs’! – charged a price for a glass of water… Well I’ll tell you …
And there, I’ll tell you, a memory, a small thing from last summer, summer 2010, in Corsica, at my friend’s place. She has lots of sisters, and one of them who’s finishing the ENA (Senior Civil Service university). And she’s not far from being, well. And she had a man at her table, it was midday, we had just been swimming, 85-years-old, who had been in the war in Algeria, and has been a friend of de Gaulle. And there, you see, there was about a dozen of us at the table, and well, I’ll tell you, I could have killed him, really I could! Luckily, my friend told me, you were wonderful, you were great, you managed it really well. But if you knew the things that they were saying, and in particular, thinking about it, because of this thing with the glass of water. My father, when he left for war, he came here in France! Because there as well, you know, the … what they say about ‘pieds-noirs’ who hid away to avoid the war, as well as the war here, the war in Algeria, well, the events of Algeria, as well as the war of 1940. My father, I’ll tell you again, he was born in 1901. So, to go to war, in I don’t know what year, he left because he must have been 39 or 40 years old. He left behind a wife and two children! He came here like a pile of … And if they had seen all the War Monuments in Algeria, you would have seen the names of everyone and the ‘pieds-noirs’ and the Arabes. Because the Arabes, there too, I don’t know if you have seen it recently, but there are Vietnamese who are entering the fray with the French government, who put them like in Riversaltes etc. The harkis hidden away, things and all that. And it’s these people, the French government, these French people, who give us lessons? Well that, the to me, but I tell you, even now, I don’t … maybe I was a rebel, but even now, I can’t stand all this racism that they make of it, and all they say about the ‘pieds-noirs’, I can’t stand it!
So, to come back to my dinner, there, the sister of my friend, who I like enormously, who brought up 8 children, who is an amazing woman. She says, I’ll tell you the story of the glass of water, that 85 year old man had brought up so naturally during dinner, it’s a case of saying, hang on a minute, this story about the glass of water, I heard my father tell it! Who was with his ‘tirailleurs’ [infantrymen]. Oh, but it was the Arabs, it was the Arabs, we wouldn’t give a glass of water to an Arab! And it’s the very same, the same French people, for whom my father had come, with his Arabs, his infantrymen, to fight. And it’s the same French people who nearly threw us out to sea, because we were ‘pieds-noirs’ and because we were racists! So you see, from time to time, you shouldn’t come for me on this subject because I …
And there, on the subject: we’ve had this house for not a very long time. It’s in the Midi, near Brignoles, not far from Aix en Provence. It’s not a hamlet, well. We’re in the middle of the village. One day, I opened the windows in my daughter’s room so that the … to cool the room until midnight. At midnight, people go outside to take the air. I close the shutters, and luckily before closing my shutter, I hear people talking like that, the man who is my immediate neighbour, and he knows that I know. He begins to say: the ‘peids-noirs’, they threw bread to the Arabs, the ‘pieds-noirs’ … but I promise you, but it was … It’s 2010, so that must have been in 2000! So you see this hatred, this hatred that they have against the ‘pieds-noirs’. The rumours that they have spread. And I’m telling you, the ‘pieds-noirs’ weren’t saints! But the metropolitans weren’t saints either! Well, all the same ... colonialism, do you think that my great-grandparents went to Algeria to fill their pockets? My great-grandmother who didn’t want to be German, and then be … to not be German, she had moved over there! The moment they left, my great-grandparents, the moment when they say there were lions in the street, all that. Listen, people told awful stories! But they had to go! This little, good woman! I wish I had asked my father the right questions, who loved her, my grandmother. And well, there you go. My parents, I practically left them in 1962, I practically didn’t see them again. You see, it’s not that, when they arrived here, that they also found themselves …
JS : But they left in 1964?
JL : Yes, but …
JS : They left for where?
JL : Well, I’ll tell you. We had cousins, no, I had my uncle on my mother’s side. The sister of my mother had married a man who was also from the countryside, who went to Savoie because his son – who was also 18 years old – he was a ‘pied-noir’. He was 18 years old, listen, he died recently from cancer, Roger, he would have been 85 years old now. He went to war in France. The war of 1940. At 18 years old his leg was amputated, you see, there you go, he also, played … he would have like to have stayed over there! And it was during his recovery that he met his wife, a nurse from Savoie, who had come to live there and swore by Algeria. And everyone, since we didn’t have many connection here in France, we all felt more or less a little repatriated, etc.
And then my father, eventually, I don’t know why, they landed in Nîmes. Well there, if you had seen, it was … in 1968, maybe, so they were there for 4 years. If you could see it, they lived in blocks, certainly built very quickly, an apartment on the first floor. When you saw it, you thought, this house is not a home … there was no bathroom, they added bathrooms later. It was no palace, but it was a house where they opened up everything, where there was light, where there was sun and all that. Actually, well, it was … and even for me, when I went to see them, to sleep, they had dragged the sofa into the room, there was a bedroom, pfff … There you go, that’s how we arrived. And after, they, with I believe the things that they sold, the would buy an apartment, uh … and you know, it was an apartment that was at auction, I believe, because you know, when an apartment, where there’s debt, or problems with a building or something like that, it goes to the highest bidder, or I don’t know what…
JS : To the auction house?
JL : To the auction house, or … well I don’t know anymore, I can’t give you the details, well it was for very little, which they had been able to afford, by combing everything they had. But it was an apartment which was quite decent, at Six-Fours. Six-Fours wasn’t that far from Toulon. Anyways, that’s how they came to buy a house down there, my sister has a house in Six-Fours as well now. That’s it, we did up our … We cousins not that far away, so we did up our … And my sister [is] there, I have my daughter there, and my niece there, you see? The herd instinct of the ‘pieds-noirs’? There you go, that as well, when I was saying to you, what are the qualities of the ‘pieds-noirs’, so we look for them, apart from conviviality and all that. But do they say that ‘pieds-noirs’ are hard-workers, huh? That we’ve come to eat French bread? There, now, the Afflelous, etc. they’re all ‘pieds-noirs’! They’re people who worked hard. But we forget that they’re hard-working since our lands were not rich and that the work of a land owner in Beauce does in an hour, over there, I don’t know how many days it takes to sow seeds, to do this, or that, well! All of that, we won’t talk about!
JS : An so, what happened when you arrived, the first few years? Around Paris?
JL : Oh well, listen, I was so lucky to make this friend. Because she … I was completely taken in by her family. She had 5 sisters, and I met my husband through her, who was a family friend. But there, pfff, you know unfortunately there was my nephew’s cancer which had begun, which really devastated us, which is why I live here, because of that …
JS : When did you move to Fresnes?
JL : Listen, I would say that we moved here … not me, my sister, she must have moved in 1964. Yes, that must be right. Because the first two years, I spent my time moving from bedsit to bedsit, because … those old bastards there … and afterwards, I came to live with her. So I commuted Paris-Fresnes. We haven’t moved since 1964, we’ve always lived here. Anyway, when my nephew died, we said to ourselves, it was truly awful, and we said that we would move. And then we said, we couldn’t, we would have to bury him all over again! So there you go, it was for that reason … and then … here, you see, it’s Eric’s room, uh … we were with Eric, it was … And maybe that if you like, that, that started it, welded us together, anyway brought us together, we didn’t need to be welded together, but it stopped us from feeling too sorry for ourselves. It was Eric’s life that was at stake, not ours. And me, I never complained. And then, I’ll tell you, I’m not the kind of woman to complain, in general, I spit out my poison and then I feel better.
JS : And well, did you feel … you’ve already spoken about a few different reaction to racism, etc., did you feel, particularly, when you arrived … any particular reactions relation to the fact that you’re ‘pied-noir’, how did it happen from time to time?
JL : Oh, yes, I’ll tell you! I’ve made a note of it, but I’ll tell you uh … so there, I told you about this guy, Gérard Moullet, who had told me, who spat it out that it was because of ‘pieds-noirs’, it would have been better for you to stay there, whatever …
JS : When was the first time you heard the term ‘pied-noir’?
JL : I couldn’t tell you. I don’t know where that came from but for us, over there, we didn’t call ourselves ‘pieds-noris’. We were Europeans! You see, there were the ‘indigènes’ [natives], the Arabs were the ‘indigènes’, huh, it was their actual name, and we were the Europeans. But ‘pied-noir’, I don’t know anything about it, it seems like it’s from here. When we asked, anyway, about the etymology or origin of the word, or I don’t know what the right word is, they say effectively that the metropolitan French had come with their black polish. I don’t know anything about it.
JS : There are 36000 versions!
JL : I know nothing about it. I should re-read, you know, Camus’s last book, The First Man. I wonder if he speaks about it at any point. I can’t remember. But … so, to tell you when we arrived, I think that for no one, it was conceivable the metropolitan reaction! I am sorry, you know, to tell you … well! And that boy, who’s reaction was to say, because of you, whatever, etc., uh … that my parents, my sister, and my brother-in-law couldn’t find an apartment because they were rehousing ‘pieds-noirs’. When we saw the boats arriving, carrying mattresses on back and all that, the loaded ‘pieds-noirs’, because the super-rich ‘pieds-noirs’ effectively, uh, they were there, and you see, it was them who got it so wrong! Because, for me, wealth, it wasn’t exactly … I tell you, in Tlemcen, the rich, the rich-rich, I didn’t see them. Maybe in the domain of the Olfus, and more. Well. I tell you, but when I got to France, and I saw the Rolls, and I saw the apartments …! I also discovered a world that I didn’t recognise! The Bettencourt ladies, I didn’t know them! And so, I tell you, it raised eyebrows, and there, I remember very well, I was working at the television so, and I had two single friends, and I was married at the time, I had two single friends, I was married for the first time.
JS : Yes, I understand.
JL : It was around 1966, 1967, I don’t know. They said to me … my ex-husband was working in television, he made shows in the summer, so I went away with the two of them. One Monique – they were both called Monique – one Monique had a pure Toulouse accent, and the other was a ‘pied-noir’ like me. And at one point – I don’t know if you know Club Méditerranée? – we go to Marrakech, in Morocco, and in the Club Méditerranée, and as you go along, you go to the dining room at midday or in the evening, and there are tables for six or eight people, I can’t remember. You have two seats there, you put yourself … So, the three of us arrive and we start chatting. And there’s a girl in front of me who says, where are you from because you have an accent that I can’t place. And I tell her, I’m a ‘pied-noir’ from Algeria – I still was calling myself … because, another time [she laughs], my husband who said, but how could she tell that, well … well I don’t know, and he said, after 15 minutes anywhere talking to someone, they’ll know that you’re ‘pied-noir’! [she laughs] And so we’re in the dining room, and I find myself face to face with this woman, I tell her I’m a ‘pied-noir’. I swear to you – as we say in my house, hammsa on you, hammsa on my sons, but I swear on my grandchildren that what I’m telling you is the truth. She got up and she said, to hell with you. Well! I stay like that, a little startled, but it never takes long for me to recover. I get up, and I say, why do you hate me? She tells me that it’s because of people like you, I’m sure that your cousin and all that, that they never fought in the war. That my fiancé, who was called Dupont or Durant, who lived in Toulouse, or I don’t know where, he fought in the Algerian War. For you, filthy rich, racist ‘pieds-noirs’, and all that … Well, there you go. And I said, oh really? Well, I’ll tell you, my father was born in 1901, he fought in the war of 1940, he came with his Arabs, his artillerymen, and fought in France. And when I asked about this story about the glass of water, and I emphasised this story with the glass of water. I told her, you see, my father, what’s more, was a prisoner in Pomerania for two and a half years. You see, when I was a small girl, I waited for him to tell me about Pomerania, that, coming from Algeria, his urine would freeze when he went to the toilet. I told her, I have my cousin (the one I told you about) who was 18 years old and lost a leg. And you know what she came out with? She said, well if he signed up it was his fault! He signed up, I said, signed up? But he was French! He was French, he was like you! He was French! And as a French man, he was re-cru-ted! You see? All of this came out, it’s always the same thing! Always!
Well, a second thing, I told you the story about neighbour, ten years ago. Every time I go somewhere, there’s always something. Coline Serreau! Etc. etc.! And I can tell you, I can’t get over this hatred. But people are jealous! Because, at the end of the day, we went over there. Some people made a fortune, not many, but when they came back and knew how to get our hands dirty and make a fortune, like the Afflelou family, like, I don’t know who. All these people who are very well off now, and who are originally ‘pied-noir’. The number of people now that you see who were born over there. It’s crazy. And there you go!
JS : So, of the, however many, 600,000, 800,000 who came over, how many made a fortune?
JL : I don’t know [she laughs]! But as we were always criticised for being rich, well, I’d say that … at least this way, they became rich here in France! [she laughs]
JS : So, on the issue of being called ‘pied-noir’, there’s also this word, did you ever hear the word ‘repatriated’ or not?
JL : Yes, there was also ‘repatriated’, yes. But ‘repatriated’ was an official word, if you like. On documents and all that. Look, I’ll tell you another thing: when I left in 1962, I tell you, I left from Algeria. So I left in June, I began to work the 7 July 1962, in television. Well. I had a head of department who was called Razario. Well, it doesn’t matter. I remember his name like you remember the name of a teacher you once had … well. I don’t know why, but he felt sorry for me. And, I’ll tell you, that when parents were over there, terrible things were going on, massacres. Although they had stayed, them, over there in 1962. Because they didn’t really speak about what happened, all the carnage that took place in July ’62 in Oran! All that happened under a veil of silence, in March, etc. well. So for me, I didn’t have telephone, you know, in my bedsit. I couldn’t use the phone in the office, because my parents, the education that I’d had, you had to do things well, you didn’t … I wasn’t going to do, like certain Ministers, get myself a flight to Guadeloupe or I don’t where and at the expense of the state. So, there you go, I even said to the women who, I even remember her name, she was Mrs Coulichako, I said to her, listen, I know that we don’t get expenses so, as I used to be a school-teacher, I get a salary July and August, and is that compatible with the remuneration that I’ll get in television? I believe this woman had more pity for me, than I had for myself, you see? She didn’t say anything. And when they say we came back with our pockets full, because we, the repatriates, I’ll use the term repatriates, because we had this money. Well, I told you just now, my mother’s inheritance: 420 euros. She died in 2003. And I’ll tell you, if we had pay outs from this, from that, maybe that we had hectares under the sun, that we could have bought ourselves a house … no! When, anyway, in my friend’s family, I’ll come back to it after what I was saying … one day, one of my Corsican friend’s brothers-in-law, we nearly fell out, but afterwards he apologised. But he’s from the countryside in Corsica, and one day he said that the Almeria plain, that’s the plain that the ‘pied-noirs’, there were these ponds, no Corsicans wanted the Almeria plain for … [Telephone rings, she answers]
JS : Yes, so, the Almeria plain wasn’t cultivated by the Corsicans …
JL : So, the Almeria plain, it was a plain like a plain – there as well, the ‘pieds-noirs’, we didn’t do a lot in Algeria – when you see Camus, who tells these stories, there were still plains that didn’t become fertile just like that, with a click of a finger. Over there, as well, we worked hard! And so, ‘pieds-noirs’ coming back did the same thing on the Almeria plain, which became a real prairie, I don’t know if there were fruit orchards, or I don’t know what, but it became a fertile plain. Well, this same man, who I really like, one of my friend’s brothers-in-law, who told me, there, the ‘pieds-noirs’ arrived, naturally, the Corsicans didn’t give us anything, didn’t give us anything like subsidies, nothing at all. But the ‘pieds-noirs’, they gave them some money to fertilise this plain, which they hadn’t looked after before. And then, naively, I said, listen, if they gave them loans, they must have been reimbursed … Not at all! Well. I shut up, I didn’t know. But I looked it up! They were given money, but they also gave it back! So there, there’s another myth! You see? All that, I mean, I don’t know if ... yes, well the Jews, who have even more flaws than we do, but I don’t know if … well. There, for the … I wanted to tell you this story about my boss, that I really liked a lot, even if he didn’t have the same ideas as me. For me, you should never mention de Gaulle in front of me, you know. Uh … Jean Louis Guillaume, so, who was a boss at TF1, he befriended me. He had, it was the third channel at the time, there was an amazing office, on avenue Matignon. There was an enormous painting of de Gaulle. And one day, I can’t remember, he challenged me on … well there, even if it was my boss, I didn’t let myself get pushed around. And I remember, I was in charge of looking after programmes at the time, and I told him look, I saw the film … which really helped me. I saw the film by André Harris and d’Ophüls, The Sorrow and the Pity, and … I thought that, for the French population, for you the French, it would be good for them to see the film. Oh my goodness! He nearly, not smacked me, but well … Go, get out of my office! Then, it was … well. Given the relationship that I had with him, I came back. But there you go! And when I arrived and I saw the film, and I said to myself, but it’s the same people who are … because the ‘resistance’, the ‘Righteous’ ones, who’s heard about them? At that time? No one! We talk about it now. We see it! The résistants and all that, everyone was a resistant! And those who said they were in the resistance, but not necessarily those who did the most, you know! Mrs I-don’t-know-what, who was in the Puy de Dôme, I don’t know why I remember that, but all these people who had been, psychiatrists, Sirunic, well, uh, well. All these people, they were silent, they didn’t say anything! But I was saying, when we came here, we though that everyone was ... that there were no collaborators! That all the French were in the resistance!
And then people they would talk about the OAS, while that also, I can talk to you about the OAS! Look, my father, at a certain point, they asked him to be in the OAS! And he was involved for a very short period of time. When he saw racist attacks, he said, no, I can’t. I mean, it’s like all people, it’s what I was telling you on the phone. The people who like me, or those who don’t, that’s not what I am. It’s not because I’m ‘pied-noir’ or because I’m, I don’t know what, Henri’s wife. But, so I … I don’t understand, what, so the , how, I can’t remember what I wanted to say, but there you go, when we love someone, we love them for what they are! You don’t love them … there you.
I mean, yes, about the attacks, my father, it wasn’t possible! There are people that you’d like to kill, but they can be French, they can be catholic, they can be I don’t know what, and there are others that, who could be your friends! And you know, I was just telling you the story about Mohammed who came to … have a drink and all that. My daughter, one of my daughters is a journalist. And she worked for a bit for RFI. She stayed calm, she didn’t know what to say. Among the young interns who came to see her, there was Sama, I don’t what who. And my daughter, now, even in 2010, in contrast to my husband who said she was wrong, when she was saying it, that when she meets Arabs she waits a while before saying that my mother is ‘pied-noir’. Because she’s afraid, even in 2010, 2011, that people say all sorts about the ‘pieds-noirs’! What my husband doesn’t want to hear! And so, she has this intern at FRI and then, at some point, she was getting on with her, and she said, well my mother is ‘pied-noir’ and all that. So Sama spoke about it with her mother, and time passed – I don’t know if I’m telling you nonsense – but maybe two or three months after, my daughter came – if you like, I’ll show it a little present, I have it – my daughter came and said to me, like, I have a little present for you, I’m sure that you won’t know it. Well, it’s clear, it’s a little holder, for putting little sticks of incense etc. So I didn’t know where it came from. She said to me, I’m sure that you’ll never know who thought of you and who bought it for you. I was thinking like that … and I said to her, it was Sama’s mum. This woman who didn’t know me! She said to her daughter, I thought of her, who can no longer stand on Algerian soil. And when I arrived, I kissed the Algerian soil for her.
I’ll tell you about that, it was three or four years ago! Well, so there you go, you see, the ‘pieds-noirs’? And well. We were the villains, we are the … well, but … and for example, I’m all over the place, I told you just now, before recording I think, the fact that I met some ‘pieds-noirs’ in the restaurant, whatever, well, and if I meet an Arab woman or something like that, now less, because of this issue of Islamists and the veil. But when I would see an Arab women, for example in Casino [supermarket], who was having difficulties, I would go and ask in Arabic, do you need help? She was saying …. Oh, and then if I would see her in the road, straight away she would recognise me, you know? But it’s not the other good woman next to me! And I mean that we have a way of seeing things, us who have lived over there, which is completely different from you, the way of seeing people. It’s what we were saying on the phone about using ‘tu’ with people! For me, I never say … I never heard my father say, use ‘vous’ with me! We all used ‘tu’ over there! There was no ‘vous’ in Arabic! We all used ‘tu’!
JS : You spoke French at home in the family, surely?
JL : Oh yes. Yes, but my parents from the beginning, when we were young, when they didn’t want us to listen to them, they spoke to each other in Arabic. Until we began to understand them. But with my sister, we started to gibber. But I lost it! I lost all of it. I miss it, I miss it! So there was Arabic, uh … dialectal Arabic, but Tunisian or Morccoan, so the grammar, I think it’s identical but in terms of vocabulary, it’s not the same. Listen, as well, instead of … since you know Fresnes, at the Place de la Pharmacie, which is down by the MJC, you see, that’s the area. Before, there was an Arab, Hedy, that I met there a little while ago. Hedy and his wife, who was Moroccan or Tunisian, since I said to him, Hedy, I don’t know that word. And often when I used to go there, he would say, off you go, do your exercise, and we’ll talk to each other in Arabic. But often there were words, vocabulary, that weren’t the same as mine. And well, I mean, straight away he knew that I was ‘pied-noir’, but I never heard any ill-feeling from them, you know? Never! So, maybe that stems from our family, maybe it stems from us. Because of the education we received, I don’t know. Because there were ‘pieds-noirs’ who are racists! But to put us all in the same box! That’s … that’s beyond me!
JS : So, at the end of the day, what does that mean for you to be ‘pied-noir’?
JL : Well, for me, ‘pied-noir’ means than I’m a bit of a mix when it comes to culture. I’m a mixture of Arab, Jewish, of … of French since, as I say, there were no Spanish people in Tlemcen. But for me, my national food is couscous! Or, rate farcie, if I’m visiting Jewish people!
JS : So, on that note, what have you kept in terms of cultural elements? You cook, you make …
JL : Oh yes! Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes. Then, there are words that come back. There are words, everyday words, you know, that come back to me normally. But now, I realize that it’s become, now it’s very good to have Arabic words spoken by a ‘Français de souche’. I’m not saying that I’m not ‘Français de souche’ but [she laughs] … but it’s to dissociate, you see? No you know, us, the ‘Français de souche’, well not ‘de souche’, the metropolitan French people, we called them ‘Frankaoui’. There you go. Me, I was the ‘roumia’ or ‘roumi’ for the … Roumi, Frankaoui, Roumia, Frankaoui. There you go, for me you’re a ‘Frankaouia’. And you’re not the same as me. Well for me, what I brough back … for example, a little thing, I was used to, I wouldn’t go the hammam over there, but uh … when we would take a bath in the famous big basin, when it happened that Aïcha and Yasmina – the two maids that we had at the house who took it in shifts for the reasons I explained earlier – they would say to me in Arabi, you want me to scrub your back? They would scrub my back, but they would always have … what we say in French, ‘la torche’, which means it was … not ‘raphia’, some … ‘alpha’, and if you said to show you, I still have an ‘alpha’ when washing, you see? What was I …
JS : And cooking?
JL : Cooking, well cooking, I do ‘frita’ …
JS : So you make traditional recipes?
JL : Oh yes! Yes. Not ‘gazelle horns’ [Tcharak] [she laughs], but … a whole bunch of dishes … and I still have, if you come to the house, besides, she knows it my cousins, that I like a lot, the other day she said to me, oh Jeanne, I’m looking for some paprika – oh what did she say to me, I don’t know what … I have curcuma, paprika, all the spices, uh … and … and I tell you, carrots with cumin, the number of … this carrot with cumin recipe, because it’s really easy to make, I give it to whoever wants it … what else did I keep from that?
JS : Music? No? Literature?
JL : Ah yes! So I’m, well, I’m, I had it. I have read a lot, a lot of … I had, I had very good contact with him, with Kateb Yacine! I had a … well. And now, Malek Chebel. Uh … there’s Abdel Hak … oh I can’t remember their name, but it is … all that … I mean, for example, what I have from over there, for example, I open up the newspaper Le Monde, in general, if there’s a bit on Chechnya, I don’t know – does Chechnya still exist? I know nothing about it – on Eastern country, for example, I look at it briefly but if there’s something on the Maghreb, or on Algeria in particular, that I can tell you, I see it! If there’s a TV show about Algeria, I won’t miss it. I mean, it’s all the same … I’m not saying that I’m French from here! I’m French from Algeria! I’m from over there!
JS : And so in fact, what you’re asked if you have ‘pied-noir’ culture, you reply ‘Maghreb’ or, in fact, ‘Algeria’? For you, there’s nothing specifically ‘pied-noir’?
JL : Well, no. No, because ‘pied-noir’ is a mixture of all of that! You see, again, with the internet, I have a friend who told me, uh … well we’re going to make brochettes, which I haven’t even eaten here, it’s … it’s food culture, it’s … I don’t know how to be ‘pied-noir’, I don’t know anything about it …
JS : But, for example, ‘pied-noir’ food, did ‘pied-noir’ eat differently in Algeria before 1962 and like the Algerians who lived there?
JL : Well, I, I’ll tell you, as well as my two grandmothers, they made the same thing: grilled peppers … both of them! Well, the other, the one who had married my grandfather Licht, she had knew her mother-in-law, she made a lot of Alsatian dishes. So I know how to make Alsatian things. But my other grandmother, who was pied-noir, well I mean that … she would make Berkoukes, she made Tassina, she made, uh … I tell you, it was all, you see … involved, all … there wasn’t a specificity … So I don’t know if …
JS : After, it was also regional, as well?
JL : Well, I tell you, for us, it was certainly Arabic and Jewish! That’s why, I tell you, I don’t like, of course, I call myself, if you attacked the ‘pieds-noirs’ in front of me, I feel ‘pied-noir’. There you go, it’s a kind of definition as well. But I can tell you what idiot, what idiot of a ‘pied-noir’! and that’s why I don’t like to be put in a thing, the ‘pieds-noirs’ are like this, the ‘Bretons’ are like whatever, you see, well. And well … me, I say that a ‘pied-noir’ it’s like a ‘Breton’ or like a, I don’t know what, uh … I knew Denise Fabre because I said, as a joke, I was her leader, head of the newsreaders, well, Evelyne Leclerc as well as Denise Fabre, they were both from Nice, their cuisine was Niçoise! Well, mine was the cuisine from over there. It’s … It was a mix, you know? It was … there you go. Local.
JS : So, you would say Mediterranean, not specifically …
JL : It’s Mediterranean culture. Yes. Because when I go to Greece, I really enjoy eating Octopus! So uh … yes, for me, I’m really Mediterranean. You see, when we had to buy a house, my husband – who’s from Limoges – for me we couldn’t go on holiday over there, you know. My in-laws had a house in Limousin, it was the summer for my children – I had a winter suitcase and a summer suitcase, uh … a summer suitcase because we were going to stay with a friend, and a winter suitcase, because we were going to Limousin where it rains and whatever! And then my daughter, because my daughter, really, I say that they are ‘pieds-noirs’!
JS : Oh yes?
JL : Oh yes. Because even more than me, my sister, who was still a school teacher, when I was working in television. In August, I would take holiday, so my daughters spent at least July were there! And so I have, to tell you, me, the woman who we called Mamita, my sister’s housekeeper, well her daughter, she was the nanny who looked after her and looked after the house! Well there was Elise, and so this women, their mother, she deied of cancer, it was dreadful for all of us! Because she was like my sister! Well, with Elise, I took her everywhere when her husband wanted. But the girls, so she they had a bit of Spanish, they were really sad when Elise did not speak enough Spanish. But they were so ‘peids-noirs’ that, in the month of July, when Elise could not look after them, it was my sister who took them! So they were raised by my sister, every July, they were with my sister. And my sister is truly ‘pied-noir’ as well!
JS : And I don’t know if you talked about it, did they feel like ‘pieds-noirs’?
JL : I wouldn’t say that they feel completely ‘pieds-noirs’, but they, they don’t avoid it. And I’ll tell you, as my husband says, when I’m with someone it only takes 15 minutes for them to know that I’m ‘pied-noir’. I always call myself ‘pied-noir’. And I claim it, it’s because of all of the attacks that I experiences when I arrived.
JS : It’s negative then?
JL : Oh completely. Completely. I don’t know if I would have claimed it in such a virulent way, if I had not had all these kinds of attacks. But I believe that … that I have a generous enough nature, and if you asked me a favour, and I liked you, I would whatever you needed. You see there, there’s a woman who goes to the gym and swimming pool with me, it’s not someone who … her husband had been a postman, he’s now retired, well look yesterday I was shocked. Because this woman has cancer, she had a mastectomy. When I was at the swimming pool – she lives just next door to my children, so I go to see them from time to time, but I knock on the door, I say how are you, and then I go. Because since, we went through that, people who call, who stay for an hour, they don’t understand … well. So I know, I went by, and it went on for 11 years the ordeal that we went through with my nephew, for 11 years, I know what I’m talking about. So I went by yesterday, because I had heard that her husband had, that he had fallen in front of the bins and he’s in a coma. So that prompted me to go and visit her, and she said to me, effectively, that she was better but it had been 3 weeks, as I had left, it was three week since her husband fell in a coma. But it’s okay … but that really hit me. She doesn’t have children, I know that she wanted to have children, but she couldn’t, and I feel for her, this woman. And I said, you can call me whenever you want! And I swear, I do what I say. And I’m always … I like to give favours! I spend my time, you see there for example, I tell you that my husband had a price … [inaudible].
Well, I met some old friends, a ‘pied-noir’ and another, Jean-René Bouillet, and continue to work, and they said to me, if you knew how much you helped us when we arrived! Well you see, I didn’t know that, I don’t remember it! I enjoyed seeing that, at the end of the day, how I haven’t always had a very high opinion of myself. So I said to myself, at the end of the say, I did someone a favour and without … you know the story, I gave, you gave … no! But … yes, if I invite you ten times over to mine and you invite me only once, I would say well, we’ve missed it. But wherever I go, wherever I go! And I think that’s also ‘pied-noir’! Wherever I go, I make friends! And they seek me out! I did some mentoring, I volunteered at the cancer institute in Villejuif, in paediatrics. You know there were days when it was hard, you know? And for me, the biggest, the biggest thanks that they gave me, was a couple, young of course, who were coming out of … an appointment with the doctor, the woman came and she fell apart in my arms, she collapsed in my arms. You see? And so I said to myself, at least … and I tell you, I think it’s my ‘pied-noir’ frame of mind. The ‘pieds-noirs’, they’re friendly. They’re friendly, they’re easy going, they’re … and me, I mean, I … they’re straight-talking. When they give something, the give it, and there you go, that’s it.
JS : Is there something that you encountered … because at the end of the day you have … what you experienced between zero and 24 years old, and then after, the rest of your life where you cross paths with ‘pieds-noirs’ but not only, and remained a characteristic … of the people you have met since?
JL : Oh yes, oh yes! There’s a solidarity … but maybe that, I tell you, this solidarity exists with the Bretons! Or with, I don’t know who! But this solidarity exists. And as soon as there is a ‘pied-noir’, you laugh, you … he doesn’t wallow in self-pity about what’s happened or, if he does, he will have a good cry and then move on. He says things, me I find that still … well you see, I will tell you, I find that the ‘Franksoui’ are secretive, they don’t say things, you never know what they’re thinking. With ‘pieds-noirs’, you know exactly what they’re thinking! And if I have so much … you see, for example, when I used to work for TF1, I had a friend who’s Jewish … Ashkenazi or Sephardic. He had made a … a show about the Moï, you know … he did it for [channel] 2. It was before 1981. And at that time, I was at TF1, and one day he called me, I would really like you to have a look at my show. I say, why do you say that? He said, because to this point I've only met people who won't dare say a thing to me. I know that you, with you, I have no problem, you will tell me. And besides, for this film, I told him, while the Right were in power, you will not be able to schedule the show, it won’t be scheduled. It’s what happened, it was scheduled for after 1981. While the show had been made, produced, I don’t know when, in 1978 or 1977, well I actually don’t know!
JS : And so, on this story about … networks, you crossed paths with other ‘pieds-noirs’ etc. Were you ever a member of a ‘pied-noir’ group?
JL : No.
JS : There were no special events around that … outside the family realm?
JL : No, because, there as well, if you like, maybe it’s cowardly, you know, I was saying that I would meet directly with people, but for, I’d rather not hear things about the Arabs that I have never agreed with. And there are some ‘pieds-noirs’ who are racist. And I don’t want to listen to them because I don’t want to hear it, because I know what it’ll be. It’s the same thing when I don’t want to hear my neighbour saying horrible things about the ‘pieds-noirs’, because it’s not true! There are, well, to say that Arab weren’t allowed to use beaches, and all that, no! For me, I don’t care! I don’t care anymore. What I care about is, is seeing people that I met …
And then you know, there are so many people embellish, or who leave things out, etc. Me, I’m a truthful person, and so I don’t want to. And you know, on TV, there are so many ‘pieds-noirs’, when … because there was the … what was that called, that, the … Algerian TV, you know, well … in 1962, they were all repatriated, you know, so … they were … there was an armada of ‘pieds-noirs’! Well, there was, when they would say, I don’t know, dirty Arab or … ‘les bicots’ [racist term for people from the Maghreb or Middle East] and all that, I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. Well, why I am going to fight with people like that? I already have to fight with people who I like because they say things about me that I can’t stand, when they say things about the ‘pieds-noirs’, in general. I don’t see why I would go fight with other ‘pieds-noirs’, I tell you, who would be … not very nice about Arabs.
JS. In your opinion, do you think the ‘pied-noir’ community will last?
JL : No, no. But I’ll say that my generation, it’s the last one! Because my daughters, what’s left for them? They’ll still have couscous, maybe my way of straight-talking with people … my own personality, you know, my whole personality! The good and the bad! So … no, no. They will be maybe … because I don’t know if they’re proud … no, they’re not proud! If you like you, they’re proud to see that I am, and what is left and how I behaved over there. Because you see, all these things that I’m telling you, about this meeting, this recent thing with my husband, my daughter was there! So she heard it all! She was really happy to see that I was like her, I think, like she knew me, you know. But … But she knows ‘pieds-noirs’ who are absolute idiots! So I think that she will not claim it for herself! No, I … I’ll say that we’re the last generation.
JS : And you were saying, just now, about going back to Algeria. You went back in 1968, and another time, did you bring your children with you, or not?
JL : Um, no! In 1982, my sister went and my daughters were too small to go there. I think that they’d like for us to all go back, you see? But, well, I don’t know if I will. With this friend, the same, the physio, the other day I called him and I said to him, you know, I’d come with you to go over there with you. Because over there, what’s more, he meets up with his childhood friend, so I would be with him and I would be with this boy, and there I could …
JS : Because there were ‘pieds-noirs’ who stayed behind over there?
JL : No! This boy, the childhood friend, he’s not a ‘pied-noir’, no, no! He’s Algerian! No, our childhood friends, we don’t have them anymore, I don’t know any ‘pieds-noirs’ who stayed behind over there. Everyone left!
JS : Well there were people, you know? There were some. Very few.
JL : Yes, but not very many. Not very many. No, it’s … No, there you go. I went back there in 1984, I’ll tell you, but uh … but there, my daughters would really like to go back there. To go there, not go back there, to just go there. But, well. I … Inch’allah!
JS : Because, I suppose that the family … not your parents, but your grandparents are buried over there?
JL : Yes, but it’s a camping site now, instead of a cemetery!
JS : Oh!
JL : Oh, yes, there’s all that. If you like, that’s why … we really have some much rancour, not specifically against the French government, or against the French, or against the Arabs, and all that. But it was I was saying about ‘pieds-noirs’, there are ‘pieds-noirs’ that I hate, there are Arabs that I hate, there are people in the French government that I hate, and there are metropolitans that I hate! There are others that I really like. There you go. But, I’ll say that the French government, they behaved in a ways which was so … disgusting. With us, but we were French all the same, but uh … seeing now with the Arabs, wondering why now there are so many people who’ll vote Front National and all that. Even among the Arabs, what did we do for them? It’s … It’s a real shame!
The harkis, their sons, Jeannette Bougrab, there, when she talks about all of that, there was another one who wrote a book about all of that, I can’t remember what she’s called … what they must have suffered, these girls! And it’s only very recently that they’re working through it, these people! Luckily, there are girls like Dati, like Fadela Amara, that I’m not putting all in the same … more than, but well. These are girls who have had enough and will get through it all because there’s not this weight of religion on them. Religion, I mean, rites and customs that are not in the Quran, but that some girls now practice. I’ll tell you, for me … I can’t stand it. From time to time, I wouldn’t say that some of them should go back their countries, but from time to time, I would like for them to go back to see women, how women live in Morocco, and maybe I’m wrong about Tunisia because when you see Tunisia, what’s she’s done, what’s her name, the former President of the Republic over there. Bourguiba. I understand her. But there, you see, for example, we have Moroccan friends. She’s French, from the metropole, and he’s, Hakim, he’s a lawyer in Morocco. They live in Casablanca, and Monique, as soon as they come to Paris, as soon as they come, I make for them – well, I wouldn’t dare to make Arabic food for them – but I make them some nice charcuterie, becuas over there they don’t eat it, and Hakim he stuffs his face! And they drink, well they drink, I mean, they like to drink alcohol. And there, Monique, she visited me, in general, they always come over in June, you see, I’m shocked, look, normally they’ll let me know, and well, she had told me, now, when I buy alcohol, I go to buy alcohol out in the middle of nowhere, and when I take the glass bottles out, I go to a bin I don’t know how far off … you see? It was last year that she told me all of that. Well, I don’t know what happened with all these young people who rioted. Well, not so much in Morocco, but well. So, they don’t dare drink alcohol like they used to buy alcohol before!
JS : Here’s a question that I haven’t asked you yet! For you, does ‘pied-noir’ only refer to Algeria, or is it the whole of the Maghreb?
JL : Well, so, I’ll comment on that, I hadn’t thought, for me, I would have said the Maghreb. And I’ll tell you, one day, I was in the train from Marseilles to Paris, and at one point, I saw someone, well, and I turn and it’s Mrs Guigou who was behind me. So, you see, it was, uh … before 1995, you know. And since my husband had participated in, I don’t know what, well, uh … and she had said that she also claims to have been born over there, in Morocco, and passing by, I said to here, uh, hello Mrs Guigou, I am the wife of, well. And uh … she says to me, where are you from? I say, I’m from Algeria. Oh, she says to me, well you’re a real ‘pied-noir’! Because it wasn’t a protectorate, it was really … and besides, what’s funny is that it’s on my social security number: 92, it was the département of Tlemcen! And so, my social security number is 2, 01, 92! Look, about that, when I had to get a new identity card, it was not very long ago, it was at the time when, you see, well, Anne Sinclair … well. So, I go to the council, I fill out the documents, etc. and instead of having me born in January, they had put February. So, I wanted to fix all of that. So, I had my documents, I had a photocopy of my birth certificate, with the stamp, the thingy, etc. And I didn’t have, maybe I missed my parents’ family record book, or something like that. I get to Villejuif, to the tribunal thing in Villejuif, and they say … I had a passport, I had an identity card! I had my birth certificate! I lay it out on the table, the girl says to me, oh, you, uh … but you have to prove to me that you’re French! So there, I’ll tell you! I went up to her; I said to her, I don’t know how old you are, 30, 35 years old. But I’ll tell you: do you even know, like all French people, you don’t know the history of France! Oh well, I’ll teach you. Do you know that once upon a time, that people in Alsace-Lorraine were, they were German, and then French, and then German again, and then … well! So, my great-grandmother, who was called Mrs Whatever, well, she emigrated from metropolitan France so that she wouldn’t be German again, she left for Algeria! And now, you want me to prove it? Well, the girl says to me, well listen, we’ll do it as if you had brought all the papers, I think that.
JS : Who’d have thought there were open minded civil servants! [laughter]
JL : Oh, yes, they exist! I tell you, it’s always the same, the labels!