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Ce que le jour doit à la nuit by Yasmina Khadra

October 22, 2012

 Ce que le jour doit à la nuit is a novel written by Yasmina Khadra, published in 2008 and recently adapted to the cinema by Alexandre Arcady.

Yasmina Khadra was born in 1955 in the Algerian Sahara. Actually, his real name is Mohamed Moulessehoul ; Yasmina Khadra is just a pseudonym that he chose to use for several personal reasons, such as the fact that he was an army officer and writing books could cause him troubles and reprisals. His books are translated in 42 coutries of the whole world. Last but not least, he got  prices for several books, such as l’Ecrivain, Les hirondelles de Kaboul (elected best book of the year in the US in 2005) and of course, Ce que le jour doit à la nuit.


The scene takes place in Oran, during the colonialist era, 1930-1950.

A man called Issa owns a productive field, which he is proud of because it is his only income. Unfortunately, his ownership gets burned, so he has to move with his wife and his children to Rio Salado, another city, where he hopes to find a job in order to survive. However, times are rough and despite his willingness, his courage and his determination the father doesn’t achieve to find a real job and he and his family are compelled to live in a destitute neigboorhood where insecurity prevails. Noticing these difficulties, his brother (played by the remarkable Fellag) suggests to give his help by giving money and at a later time, by taking care of his nine-year old son Younes. Issa feels pride wounded by these offers because in Algeria pride and dignity are two extremely significant values; but eventually he accepts, seeing that it is the best solution for the future of his son.

Thus, Younes finds himself in a big house, with an uncle and an aunt that he has never seen before. All is new for him, such as the French language that he doesn’t master; besides, from now on he is called Jonas. However, his most terrible experience is the first night he had in his uncle’s house. Indeed, his aunt who is a Christian decorated his room with christian pictures and that caused Younes nightmares because he was raised in a muslim background and was not used to that.

Over the years, Younes/Jonas becomes completely influenced by the “pied-noir” culture and he has no more link with his family (his father disappeared and his mother and his former house burned with his mother and his sister inside)  and in other words with his past. Moreover, Younes has the “chance ” to have a European physical appearance with beautiful blue eyes which encourage his integration.

Younes’ teenage years will be the best years of his life. Indeed, he takes advantage of the sun and the beach and has fun with his friends. Despite all this happiness, Younes always feels and knows that he is different.

Then, a few years later, it is the beginning of the riots against the colonial system in Algeria and the apparition of a new character in the plot : Emilie who is the object of all the desires. Both these events will produce disruption, jealousy and conflicts between the boys. Younes/Jonas is particularly touched ; in the Algerian conflict he is split between his origins and his friends.

In this photo you can see the actors who play Younes’ team when they are kids and when they are young adults.

As far as I am concerned, I found this book really thought-provoking because it tackles a lot of questions on this complex period of the French and Algerian history. For me, it is a complete book because it mixes historical elements, with a love story and there is a lot of suspense. Last but not least, Yasmina Khadra doesn’t make a Manichean book, he gives voices to all the proganist of the Algerian conflict, so we can understand why each of them thinks and acts like that and tries to put ourselves in their places.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Johna63 permalink
    May 6, 2014 2:04 pm

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