Revue ‘Discrétion’: A beautiful moving story of an Algerian matriarch

“Discretion” by novelist Faiza Guene is a tale about family ties, social awkwardness, the effects of French colonization and a journey from Paris to Msirda Fouaga, a town and commune in the province of Tlemcen in the northwest of France. ‘Algeria. This is the story of Yamina, who left her home in Algeria for Morocco and later France following an arranged marriage. As the protagonist nears her 70th birthday, her life is remembered with her bonded family as the focal point of the story.

Due to discrepancies between her French residence permit and her Algerian birth certificate, Yamina is unsure of her precise date of birth. She endured a difficult life due to a difficult upbringing plagued by poverty, geopolitical tensions that robbed her of her innocence, and a father who was the reason for her first exile. Despite these difficulties, Amina chooses not to focus on evil. She is loved by her family and leads a happy and worldly life in France. She is married to a devoted man named Brahim Taleb, with whom she shares four children. Readers get to know them well due to changing points of view throughout the book. A recurring motif is their disdain for their mother’s rituals, calm demeanor, and politeness in the face of adversity.

The title of the book, “Discretion,” says a lot about how immigrants, especially women, learn to bear their problems in silence. A central theme of the story is that immigrants often and unwittingly raise “overburdened” children despite the incentives that drive them to start over in a new land—the dangers of war and poverty. In the story, Yamina’s children are aware of the tug of war between their Algerian and second-generation French identity, the compromises that brought them to France, and the weight of their parents’ history.

Overall, the essence of Guene’s work is the conflict between opposing identities during immigration and the resulting rift that can develop between family members. The author’s work serves to create a bridge between generations, especially so that children of immigrants can better understand the difficulties and past decisions of their parents.

With exquisite prose that offers an in-depth look at generations of the Taleb family, shaped by a lifetime of conflict, change and racism, Guene’s work is relatable and transcends time. Although Guene is well known for her debut novel Kiffe Kiffe Demain, now translated into over 30 languages, her latest release is worth picking up.