Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Lettre à Zohra D by Danielle Michel-Chich


Lettre à Zohra D by Danielle Michel-Chich
Published in France by Flammarion in February 2012.

I read this book in French

Where to buy this book:



How I got this book:
Swapped for in the library at Camping Los Madriles, Isla Plana, Spain

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lettre à Zohra D. is an autobiographical narrative exploring the author's experience as a child survivor of the 1956 bombing of the Milk Bar café in Algiers, Algeria. The bomb caused Michel-Chich to lose her left leg and killed her grandmother.

As well as simply wanting to practice and improve my French language skills and vocabulary, I hoped that by challenging myself to read some books in French this year I would be able to discover works as yet untranslated into English. I also wanted to find books from countries as yet unrepresented in my WorldReads posts and Lettre à Zohre D absolutely fits the bill. This memoir is written by a woman born and raised in Algeria, who had to emigrate to France when Algeria gained its independence. Aged just five, she survived a terrorist bomb attack although in reading her book I learned why she doesn't appreciate being labelled as a 'survivor'.

Michel-Chich wrote Lettre à Zohre D fifty-five years after the Milk Bar bombing, having spent most of the time in between just getting on with her life and not dwelling on the past. Now a grandmother herself, I love her down-to-earth pragmatism and her sense of humour. Despite starting from a horrific event, this is in no way a depressing memoir to read. Reading about her family's reaction to her injuries was probably the most difficult for me because attitudes to trauma and its treatment were very different in the late 1950s and 1960s. Most interesting though were her thoughts on terrorism as a concept and Zohra D's place in the feminist canon.

From a Learning French perspective, this book wasn't so difficult as to be discouraging although I needed new vocabulary words for the subject area. By the latter stages I was reading reasonably swiftly with rarer dictionary grabbing. The memoir is only just over 100 pages so, even with just reading 5-10 pages a day, I could see myself making progress. It might seem odd to say I enjoyed Lettre à Zohra D because of its theme, but that is the case. I was given lots to think about. Michel-Chich's attitudes and opinions were frequently not what I expected and I like to have my beliefs challenged in this way.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Danielle Michel-Chich / Biography and memoir / Books from Algeria

4 comments:

  1. This sounds like it would be depressing, so that's interesting she managed to avoid that and even have a sense of humor. But it does sound like a book that would make you think and learn some things because of the subject matter. And how neat that you read it in French!

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    1. I knew very little about the Algerian independence movement in the 1950s and I am now interested to discover more about this period in Algerin-French history

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  2. It's Awesome you can read in french ven if you need a dictionary for a few words! This HAS to be such an emotional read! I love books that make you reflect.

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    1. Me too! I had subconsciously made assumptions about how Danielle must have felt and these turned out to be wrong which got me thinking

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