Seen on these playlists
A gripping testimonial to the transnational solidarities forged across the decolonizing world in the 1950s and 60s from the rarely heard perspective of a child... CLAMOR offers, for the first time, an account of the colonial soundscape. For this child of the Algerian war, the practice of decolonization begins with his own decolonization of all the would-be empires of music and sound competing to dominate his city block. In his mind and soul, these disharmonies come to coexist and inform one another, and his continuous absorption of them culminates in his own lament for his mother’s death. This inaugural exercise of voice is not only the deepest expression of his grief, but also the future actor, journalist, and novelist’s first cry for survival. Through his close listening to all these voices, and, as a result, the development of his own voice, the child narrator empowers himself to choose not to become a murderer, to choose not to be overcome by the wartime violence surrounding him, but rather to sustain life through music and language.
—Olivia C. Harrison and Teresa Villa-Ignacio, from the translators’ afterwordView playlist
from ClamorThe organization of a colonial city is distressingly banal, for it is conceived as a military camp. Take a city outlined by Trajan’s or Caesar’s cohorts, take Pompeii, Timgad, or Volubilis: their maps are the maps of contemporary colonial cities, the checkerboard city, drawn in straight lines that betray an obsession with quick invasions and evacuations, optimizing the flow of merchandise, small fort and market square thinking. In its center, two barracks, a church, two schools, a synagogue, a mosque, a square flanked by a lottery shack and the broken-faced WWI veteran tending to it, a covered market, all the shops around it, a brothel-street, and a multitude of watering holes.
from ClamorYou are not yet seven years old and the world explodes in your face. You are not yet seven when you feel the blast of the bomb that you will learn to call plastic explosive—the blast, the wave, the debris, the smell, the mixed smells of human flesh, blood, earth, and shit. You are not yet seven and you understand that the world is populated with torturers and victims, that the latter may become the former, and vice versa. You will understand. You will learn to know them, to recognize them immediately, at the very moment they enter your field of vision.
from ClamorThe first scene is this one: a block of houses facing a street and five establishments arranged like the points of a star: across the street to the left, the Bar Nègre, to the right the Tout Va Bien, at the end of the block to the left the El Behja Café, across from that the Aurès Café, and at the other end of the block the Brasserie de l’Étoile. To tell the story, you have to make distinctions among them, speak of them separately, while in reality their loudspeakers were in fierce competition, pushing to the max, projecting a sonorous magma into the surroundings, from late morning until just after midnight, a painful racket composed of songs, instruments, orchestras and soloists, crooners and mournful chants, interminable until it became a sonorous magma, overlapping chainsaws. A polyphonic war. The world’s clamor. Voices cross space, fly over walls onto terraces, then penetrate your head. Your head is an antechamber, a resonance chamber, the voices ram the windows, penetrate them and remain trapped there. They turn in a confined space—your head—the room—and get tangled up together, merge together, all harmonies confused, modulated only by the will of an operator you will never see, who is compelled to turn the button to the right to increase the volume, or to the left to lower the volume, according to a logic as random as it is incomprehensible, but these sounds, these voices, these melodies may also be modulated by the wind, the vibrations of the air, or the overheating sun.
from ClamorA bubble of soap, a trick, next to nothing, a brick that threatens to fall from an old wall and become dust. What will save you, what will keep you from becoming an apprentice-killer, a mercenary, from selling your body in one way or another, from adding loss to loss? The multitude of voices, their racket, their omnipresence. Resounding.
from ClamorA scene relived so many times: a child, not quite ten years old, but familiar with the radio, with which he was born and grew up like few children of his age, he’s familiar with the sounds, the voices, the whistling, the fat buttons and the green eye that gradually thinned or thickened as one approached the chosen station, the sputtering, the musical notes and sometimes the agonizing sound effects of suspenseful radio plays—the interminable steps of the approaching assassin, the intolerable gasps of his defenseless victims—yes, the child knows them all, which is why that morning, probably because his parents forbade him to turn on the radio during the day—too expensive?—that day, the child could be found at the house of a neighbor, a second mother, who often let him play in her living room, the child approached the big radio with its green eye, a Schneider no doubt, a respectably large piece of furniture with its varnished wooden casing and its gilded brass rods, and he heard that song, that voice, that music, which literally nailed him to the floor, which ran through him, a woman’s voice between weeping and celebration, an ululation made of love, despair, and tenderness. You’re transfixed by the power of the revelation, you’re inundated with a feeling you don’t understand, but which you don’t resist, you’re in the radio, you’re with her, with that voice, you’re with that character, her misfortunes are your own, as yours are hers, no other arrangement is possible, nothing else is imaginable, you have just integrated that voice into the most profound part of your being even though it is the most mysterious voice you have ever heard.