Kalima, the translation initiative of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, published the Arabic translation of French writer Jules Roy’s “Les Chevaux du Soleil – La Saga de L’Algerie” (The Sun’s Horses – Algeria’s Saga).
“The revolution of a million martyrs” may be the title most Arabs are familiar with when considering the era of French colonization of Algeria.
Algeria was engaged in a firm resistance to maintain its independence, retaining simply the names and symbols.
The lifestyle experienced by Algerians at the time of this occupation remains vague. It should be noted that little is also known about the communities of the French colonisers and settlers who lived in Algeria during this period.
It has been suggested however that Roy’s novel that depicts this rich human experience, which has a multitude of levels, volatility and stages and presents the influences on both the coloniser and colonised, providing an in depth and comprehensive account of the daily lives of both groups.
Roy observes, through this experience, a network of thorny relations, daily living and psychological shifts over generations, resulting in the downfall of colonialism. The author suggests that a hefty price was paid by both the Algerians and the occupiers during this struggle. He notes that the colonialists may have felt that the Country would be a suitable settling place and may have been shocked and disarmed by the strong opposition they faced.
Roy proposes that this experience “pumped the veins of France with blood that did not cease from boiling, because anyone who set foot in Algeria fell in love with it, as with a dream that does not part from the memory. The novel is a saga with unexpected restitutions within a family, these group of people present as being similar to other families who had lived through storms, impulses and hardships for more than a century – a legend in which everything can be more real that the reality.”
The French writer, who was born an Algerian “pied noir” (in reference to the French and Europeans who lived during the colonisation period), grow up with a strong sense of the impact of such a dispute and its subsequent influences, including the military experience. However, he became an avid anti-colonialist and supporter of the Algerian people, in their battle for independence and freedom.
Roy began writing this work in 1966, when this experience was still current and the relevant dates and events were easily recalled to memory. However, the detail Roy added to his novel was much deeper than the political chronology of colonialism. He presented a human historiography which was based on true stories, and used this as the foundation for his novelist imagination. In addition to his personal experience, Roy and his wife went back to Algeria and worked for years to collect information on places and events. When compiling the novel, the author chose not to present the information as a documentary, but instead wove an epic novel that has spanned generations and was influenced by stories of families. In order to achieve this he followed their evolution, including their complex emotional, political and economic ties.
The author appears to have presented life against the backdrop of big and small historical events, without going deeper in them, in an attempt to provide a transparent background where the everyday lives of people (characters) who were born, grew up, loved, betrayed, married, died, lived conflicts, got injured and killed and left, mingled and interchanged, as the lives of the people at this time may also have become interwoven.
This novel was published initially through the six books presented to the reader in order (The author has also presented this work as one novel which he called "Les Chevaux du Soleil – La Saga de L’Algerie”, it is this work which Kalima published in its initial six-part version). The novel is presented by the author almost an autobiography in a saga, through this work Roy uses a range of characters to present his various experiences to the reader.
As part of this novel a character "Hector" was born to a mother called "Mathilde" and father, a French school teacher, "Dematons." He was sent to a Roman Catholic seminary. He later took part in Indochina War.
It is suggested by some that this work is a vibrant life in a saga that offers an unmatched experience of French colonialism, with regard given to the true meaning of colonialism in the everyday life. The Author explores the ideas of occupation in terms of the bloody internal conflict, the contradictions that change humans, the daily destruction of identity, the uprooting and alienation, the meaning of the land and the importance of nations and identities both to the individual and on a global scale.
Roy was born in Algiers to a French settler family. He completed his high school studies in a Roman Catholic seminary school, before joining the infantry and Royal Air Force in France. Later he moved to Great Britain to become a part of the French Liberation Army. Roy began writing in 1946 while still in service. In 1953, he quit the army in protest of the First Indochina War. He has published more than thirty works, including novels, essays and poetry. The author has also won several literary awards.
Among his novels are: “Le Chevaux du Soleil” (1968 – 1972), Le Désert de Retz (1978) and La Saison des Za (1982).
The book has been translated by Dhia Haidar. Born in Jbeil, Lebanon, Haidar studied Media and Documentation at the Lebanese University. She worked in the Lebanese press between 1996 and 2005, before moving to the UAE, where she works in translation and electronic journalism. Among her translated works are:"Tito's country", "Little Zepolin" and "Bulilingha turtles."