Lettre de Vaison-la-Romaine: In the Heart of National Front Country

Check out the latest from Julian Crandall-Hollick on the how history and the pieds noirs play into the nationalist movement in Provence:

“The Left in France cold-shouldered them. Even today, many Frenchmen see pieds noirs as not really French, nostalgically hankering after a colonial paradise in Algeria. They blame them for causing the Algerian war by their treatment of Algerians. The pieds-noirs therefore have lost out twice: their native homeland and their adopted land in southern France.

For many pieds noirs over sixty, the horrors of the Algerian war between 1960-62 have scarred them for life against all Muslims and all Arabs. ‘But for our children and grandchildren this will die off,’ says Francois, who went from Malta to Algeria and now manages an association of pieds noirs near Vaison, where his two daughters manage a hotel. ‘Algeria means nothing to them.’

For my neighbours Jacques and Michel, who were sent to Algeria as teenage conscripts, images of savagery remain imprinted on their teenage minds. They still cannot really think of Muslims as normal human beings. Will they ever? Arab food and dress, especially for women, remind them constantly that these countries are now independent and have not shown the proper deference and gratitude towards France.

Yet what do they see all around them? If they see them at all, because it’s extremely rare in Vaison for a French man or woman to even acknowledge the presence of an Arab. No Bonjour for them. I suspect that few even know the Arab equivalent salaam aleikum. Muslims and Arabs are still invisible. Arab men and women live out their retirement in Vaison, while their children and grandchildren – bone fide French citizens – work in local government or businesses.”

Read more on France, China, America and the world beyond in our brand new Fall 2012 issue of Carnet Atlantique!

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