The front cover of Persian edition of 'Where I Left My Soul'
According to IBNA
correspondent, ‘Where I Left My Soul’
(Où j'ai laissé mon âme) which has been translated by Bahman Yaghmaei and Mohammad Hadi Khalilnejadi into Persian and released by Negah Publishing in Tehran portrays the political concerns of Jerome Ferrari who won the 2012 Prix Goncourt
for his novel ‘The Sermon on the Fall of Rome’ (Le Sermon sur la chute de Rome).
A tale of two torturers ‘Where I Left My Soul’ is a powerful exploration of guilt and identity in the savagery of the Algerian War. Captain Andre Degorce is reunited with Lieutenant Horace Andreani, with whom he experienced the horrors of combat and imprisonment in Vietnam.
As the narrator, Andréani, Corsican, in a keynote speech, addresses Degorce, an old friend, whom he met at Dien Bien Phu, then frequented in Algiers, and then found at his trial. In 1945, André Degorce, student, Christian, young resistant, was arrested, tortured, incarcerated.
In 1954, as a young officer, he knew the Vietnamese camps. In 1957, captain, he runs a small interrogation center, so torture. The action focuses on three days in March 1957, around two prisoners, the Kabyle Tahar, the Communist Clement, in the company of Chief Warrant Officer Moreau, Sergeant Febvay and some Harkis.
Andréani, ten years old, already a lieutenant, works differently, but remains attached to this figure, "like a brother". Long after (2000-2010), he can announce: "We arrived in hell, my captain, you are granted.
Captives now pass from the Captain's hands into Andreani's: one-time victims have become torturers. Andreani has fully embraced his new status, but Degorce has lost all sense of himself, only finding peace when he is with Tahar, a commander in the National Liberation Army. Tahar's cell now acts as a confessional for Andreani, with the jailor opening up to his prisoner.
Andreani relates intimate and horrific reminiscences of torture at their military station, which he justifies with equally intimate and horrific descriptions of murders of civilians committed by their Algerian enemies: a bridal party in which everyone's throat is cut; young people at a milk bar blown to pieces.
Andreani's sections alternate with a cooler third-person narration that focuses on the captain himself, Capitaine Degorce, over a few days in 1957. Degorce has captured the leader of the rebels, Tahar, and is impressed by his adversary's serenity. Tahar seems untroubled by his own atrocities, and can perhaps help Degorce save his own soul.
Degorce, who was himself tortured by the Gestapo in 1944, declines to have Tahar treated in the same manner, and instead gives him the full military "compliments". But others in the chain of command are not so keen to keep Tahar around.
The novella would fail if it were merely a static diorama of horrors, but the story has a doomy propulsion, with its elegant flashbacks and adumbrations, vivid, economical scene-setting, and fascinating relationships at its heart.
It is in effect a diabolical love-triangle: Andreani loves Degorce, who does not love him back but loves Tahar instead. The suspicion arises that this knot might be eternal, as Ferrari brings events to an ending that is true coup de théâtre.
The Persian translation of ‘Where I Left My Soul’ has been published in the 174 pages with a print run of 500 copies by Negah Publishing.