So then I drank some coffee with Auntie Mariatou and told her the unwinding of the whole crazy evening, and instead of sympathizing she clucked like a turkey during my whole tale. Then she concluded with one of those magic phrases that have the ability to unravel the most serious situations and defuse the most charged atmospheres.
“Man is a jackal but what woman can do without him? A person needs two hands to clap . . .”
Auntie’s husband, Papa Demba, still looks at her with eyes filled with admiration and love, he’s one adorable person, solid and gentle, the ideal spouse. Their story, the one he told me anyway, is mad extraordinary. Of all the young women in the village, she was the one he noticed. One morning when he was passing by in a wagon, he saw her crossing a field. The view from that day never left him — I think he was making a subtle reference to her unforgettable backside — and then he swore to himself that she would be his beloved. He belonged to the blacksmith caste and she belonged to the noble caste so the union was impossible, but Papa Demba’s strength and determination won out over everything else.
I love that Auntie tells me these coupling stories, they make you laugh so hard you piss yourself. She always says that it’s the woman who makes the couple a success and the man will be its downfall. Maybe that’s a little extreme but it’s about right. She also says that love is like hair, you have to take care of it.
— Faiza Guene, trans. Jenna Johnson, Some Dream for Fools, pp 36-37
Lively, awkward — that might be the translation, or it might be translating something authentically awkward in this story of an immigrant fitting in, or not, in Paris’s center or its circling bainlieux, in her social circle, in the bled, the Algerian homeland.