The City of White Shadows
Anouar Rahmani risks jail time because of what he writes. PEN/Opp publish an extract from one of the texts that is currently being investigated by the authorities. The City of White Shadows is an historical novel that depicts a gay relationship during the Algerian war of independence.
Anouar Rahmani is writer, activist and blog under the headline ‘Diary of an unusual Algerian’. He writes about the lives of LGBT-people in Algeria and how literature can break stereotypes.
From: The City of White Shadows
Khalid paid a visit to Mohammad’s house. He was staying with him and although he lived next door, I used to see him as so far away. I used to stand every night by the window awaiting his arrival, and Sarah within me sat on my sharp edge suffering the distance. She still didn’t get to hold him, or to taste his lips. She’s still awake within me, like an eternal dancer tangoing alone, looking for her lone partner.
Is it strange to feel as one with the universe? Is it strange to feel the galaxies within me, tickling me to laugh despite the pain? Is it strange to forget that the whole universe is within me as I fly toward you, and love you like there is no other than you inside of me?
How can I remind you that I am the universe and that you are greater than me, that the whole universe becomes a void before you my love?
He was he and I was I, between us stood a transparent barrier, but there was no way of finding out where it originated from so we can uproot it and find respite. In his eyes flickered a warm flame which revived my pink-hued dreams and awakened my heart’s true beat. Where I used to treat him as a friend, while trying to bridle Sarah in and keep her from emerging at any moment, where I kept by his side at all times never letting him out of my sight, he was a sun that illuminated my dark obscurity.
His body was striking me dead. I did not know how to describe my feelings as I watched him move before me, with his lean, muscular body, his skillfully sculpted fingers, his pink lips, little teeth lined like a row of pearls, his perked bottom. I do not know how to name my attraction to it, it was a Sarah Syndrome I could not keep to myself. I used to stutter when talking to him to an extremely ridiculous extent. I don’t know, something made me feel dizzy in his presence and I would lose my equilibrium. It was obsession.
As much as I was able to bear the obsession, I was not able to bear with myself as I fought the battle of opposites in the transparent distances between us. Seeing him carry my sister on the bike was quite unbearable; obsessive images gathered in my head to an insufferable level, my little sister has all of a sudden become my sworn enemy. He was acting in a way that has driven me mad. Chath appeared extremely joyed, he was spoiling her quite extraordinarily. I used to ask myself, aimlessly: “does he think her to be Sarah? Could he be that stupid? Can’t he see she’s just a little girl?”
Her hair would wave and touch his lips, as he drove her full throttle on the bike, I would watch her like a little boy whose lollipop was just taken away from him.
Eleven, twelve, thirteen or a million years, I didn’t care how old she was, but there she was barking at what the orange tree has gifted me as she was competing for my beloved.
All of this took place at the height of the events of the Algerian Revolution, in parallel with an internal revolution reining in the flood of this overwhelming love.
We spent days together in guise, where I played the role of the faithful friend who has waited for the return of his favourite mate, while he played the role of the ordinary adolescent who has resisted the harshness of the fields, which couldn’t force him to squat among the piles of rocks. My sister was disguised in her morphological dress which gave her a much older appearance, and our neighbourhood played the role of coexistence in the midst of this war that seemed to burn down everything living and dead.
Khalid would quietly pass on his suffering to my body and wake me from my dreams. I used to feel his sadness and the flaming force that would take shape on his features. Whenever he saw a French flag, I would understand the secret of that bliss; I would understand the secret of that anger transpiring in his actions.
I used to impatiently wait for the news of his expulsion from Mohammad’s house, so I could have him over. He once answered me when I asked, that he was looking for a job here as he was looking to settle in the neighborhood.
I soared far with him; I could then see Sarah within me beautifully dressed in white; Khalid in his black wedding suit, a burnous thrown on his shoulder. He would take me in his embrace and I would tell the whole world I loved him, as grains of rice rained upon us blessing our damned love.