ElWatan, the daily Algerian newspaper in French, has a very interesting piece of Flash fiction called “Le long chemin de H.H.”. i.e “The long road of H.H.” by Chawki Amari. It recounts the plight of Hassan Harrab, a young Algerian, through the woes that Algeria faced in the last few decades. His last name “Harrab” literally means the fugitive or the absconder in Arabic .
Well worth the read: I’m sure it resonates with the story of countless Algerians inside and outside the country. Here is the translation in English:
His name is Hassan Harrab, he has an average height, solid calves and works as a plumber. With no political convictions, he quit his country in 1992 after some terrorist groups threatened his village to leave or abide by Islamic Law. He went to a small village in southern France with the intention of working for everybody as a plumber. He does not stay for long: the “Front National” took the mayoral elections in 1993, and his neighbours, clients up to then, have asked him to leave to the Arabs with his screwdrivers. Hassan Harrab takes his tool box to Marrakesh, in Morocco, where he worked in a hotel. After the terrorist attacks of 1994 there, the Algerians were forcibly deported from the country. After a journey in the back of a truck, he finds himself in Ghelizane, in Algeria, but he was considered a Moroccan. He goes to Algiers where he worked until he was thrown out of his apartment by the landlord because the landlord wanted to open a Pizzeria.
In 2000 Hassan Harrab goes to the Kabyle region, where he was persecuted because he fixed the central heating system of the local Gendarme station. After repairing some pipes in Bouira, Hassan Harrab quits Algeria again for Sfax in Tunisia, but in 2004, after a football match, some incidents occurred and Algerians were persecuted. Hassan Harrab again has to flee to Tebessa. Having gone to Egypt to work in the installation of water pumps for the Nile, he finds himself fleeing again after the recent incidents. Today in Algiers, well into his 40s, he has a particular philosophy. Where there are men, there are losses. And welds do not typically last for long.
Given the interesting choice of the name, the story has definitely some connotations as to the people who flee the country when there are problems, how their problems may haunt them to their exile, and the incredibly hard decision of almost every Algerian in exile of whether or not to return to the country. It reminds me of the classic El-Harrachi shaabi song “Ya-Rayah”. The initials themselves “H.H.” may indicate something, but I’m not finding it – are you?