I actually don’t know what to think of it. I rarely appreciate novels written by Algerian (but not only) female writers. Whenever I read one I get the feeling it’s written by a woman for a feminine readership, unlike novels written by men which are suitable for both genders.
Anyway, the novel is written in the same style as “Voices“. Maissa Bey uses her two main characters, Lilas and Ali, to narrate the story. Each their turn. It starts in 1962 with a girl and a boy and evolves with them as they grow up, love each other, get married, have their child, and ends in 1992. So we get what is supposed to be a man’s and a female’s perspective on the same events, which, I think, the author relatively succeeded in doing. A major difference between the two being Ali speaking a lot of politics and Lilas neglecting it and concentrating on the social aspects. Both characters are successively given several pages each and sometimes I felt it was too long before we got to read the other’s perspective. But this changes in the 1982 to 1992 period as only a few pages are “used” at a time, perhaps to create a feeling of speed in the reader’s mind and reflect the fact things in Algeria evolved very quickly during that period.
This is it about the form.
As for the content, I’d say the whole novel shows us how Algeria has missed the opportunity of winning a war and achieving independence. Reading “Blue White Green” is like time travelling. An Algerian reader can relate with every point it mentioned. I even think any Algerian with observation skills and some writing talent could have written it.
You see the former Moudjahid, who leaves his village to settle in a flat left by a French in Algiers, becomes an important member of the party (FLN), leaves his wife and children as they no longer match with his living standards and ambitions, marries a younger woman, lives in an old villa in the heights of Algiers and loses every connection with the people. He even goes to French hospitals before he dies…
You also see the Algerian women, you witness when some of them take off the haik to wear the European dress (they become civilisees) and when a majority switches from the haik or the European dress to the hidjab. You see them speaking of contraception and birth control. You see them adopt modern behaviours while they stick to some traditional ones.
You see the unemployment rate getting higher and higher, goods and food shortages, corruption and bribery, harga and hogra, workers not doing their job properly, etc.
You read about the conflicts and influence struggle between the francophones and the arabophones, between the Pouvoir and the Communists, the Pouvoir and the Berberists, the Pouvoir and the Islamists, and between them all.
You read about the first riots, the assassinations, 5 October 1988, the qamiss and the beard, the state-owned press, the loss of moral values and solidarity between the people, the people unhappy but not caring, the loss of the people’s confidence in themselves and in their future.
The list is too long. I read the novel and didn’t feel it was all negative, I felt it was just fine. And this despite the fact I could hardly find something positive… Strange.
I started this post by saying many Algerian writers wrote about the colonisation period and the 90s. The main characters in this novel, like in many of those dealing with the 90s, are depicted as open-minded liberals, good people, not quite religious, tolerant, intellectual, and drinking alcohol (Algerian literature often creates some kind of romanticism in drinking alcohol, and some Algerians seem to think it’s the same in actual life). Selecting such characters is politically correct in my opinion. I would like to read similar novels with the main character being from the other side, a regular Algerian, not drinking, not quite tolerant, a practising Muslim, etc. Perhaps the novel would be less interesting? But why not give it a try?