Algerian poet Djamal Amrani was born in 1935 in Sour El Gozlane. Central to his life and work were his involvement in the Algerian liberation movement, and his arrest and torture by the French Army for participating in a 1956 student strike. Amrani was imprisoned for two years for his revolutionary activities, and then expelled to France. From this ordeal came his moving autobiographical narrative Le Témoin (The Witness), published in 1960 by Les Éditions de Minuit. He was a career diplomat and journalist before he decided to devote himself to writing and to his radio broadcasts, which drew a wide audience with such shows as “Uninterrupted Poetry.” He received the Pablo Neruda medal in 2004 for his body of work, published between 1964 and 2003. His books include Soleil de notre nuit (Sun of Our Night, 1964), L’été de ta peau (The Summer of Your Skin, 1982), and La nuit du dedans (The Night Within, 2003). He died in Algiers in 2005.
The poet eulogizes the revolutionary fighter and guerilla leader of Algeria’s National Liberation Front, Ali la Pointe.
Pour Ali la Pointe (Tribute to Ali la Pointe)
Here where each day calls out to our suffering
Here where each step chains our desire for hope
Here where everything cries out misfortune violence famine
Here where blood is confirmed silently and grief gains ground
He died. Died buried under a pile of rubble
While he trampled hatred down with his proud blood
So that the roots of his impatient people
Would grow knotty in the shadow of the flag
Gray tears, so slow to cool
Endurances curved round the sacred fire
Because they wanted to condemn our long
Arid thankless processions to the shadows
Because they wanted to tear up our lives
At the borders of oblivion
Ali La Pointe, son of a land that took up arms
Sole penance, disturbing spacious nights
Who wrestled down infamy, devoured disdain
At first sight of their guns
Here he is indicting at one more meeting
Their blood-gorged breath; he is there
For those who know the universe at the dark hour
Furies of one shared past!
His face—mirror of cruelties—where a chorus of cries
Fuses our hope, sharpens our freedom
Here he is again, living hostage in the wrinkles around
Our eyes where the new sun has driven away
Shame and emptiness forever. I say: spotted, wrinkled, polished fruits.
We sow because death is determined
Because death is stronger than hunger
O mother country, he called you Certainty before his rapture
Then gave himself to the flames to restore
Your sovereign brightness.
Yesterday strapped down once more by insults of the lords and masters
Swallowed up by incest misery
He loved the humble, set tenderness free
Devoured the past
At the multiple hour of inheritance
When our joy tells the beads of present freedoms
When his name is whispered in our silences
I cry out: Child of the Casbah
Spring thaw on the ramparts
You broke the chains of the forbidden gardens.
The poetry was first published in The Words Without Borders literary Magazine in January, 2019.