Mohsen Abdelmoumen: In your books “A quoi rêvent les Loups” and “Les Agneaux du Seigneur”, you were able to pass on the Algerian misfortune, namely the red and black decade. What can you tell us about this?
Yasmina Khadra: Simply because I experienced this tragedy in my heart and in my mind. I was in the real fight against fundamentalism on the ground. I fought the terrorists for eight years and saw this downward slide spreading across the planet. Twenty years ago, when I wrote “Les agneaux du Seigneur” and “A quoi rêvent les loups”, I already told to the Western journalists that it was going to happen to them. They did not want to believe me because they thought this pandemic was endemic and that it could not transcend the borders of an underdeveloped country or a poorly managed and misguided Muslim country. I said that it was not a problem of society but a problem of the times, and this time is so full of injustice, humiliation and sourness, that it will create a rather violent reaction that will first try to attack the peace and dreams of the whole world. This is exactly what is happening today. This pandemic has become much more ideological with a Western attitude that has not been up to par, because instead of understanding the problem, they looked for a culprit, which was dangerous. And we are witnessing this downward slide due to lack of awareness, responsibility and lucidity.
You think that Western political powers have learned nothing from the Algerian or Iraqi lesson, or the Syrian drama?
We first have to agree on two essential things: there are the peoples of the West and there are the Western elites. When we talk about peoples, I believe they are the best peoples of the world, they are the most human, the most open, the most tolerant, the most curious, the most cultured peoples, but the elite is not representative of these peoples. The political elite is obsessed and blinded by strategic issues that have nothing to do with the human, because the more we go towards the strategy of dominating and installing foci of tension to recover some interests and for turning the economic machine, the more we move away from the human. Peoples do not ask to be the strongest; they simply ask to be the happiest, to be able to raise their children as it should, to accompany a generation to the end, to live small things, that’s what peoples want. They have only one ambition: to live in peace. Unfortunately, peace is in technical unemployment. For finance, you always need wars. One day, people would have to repeal wars. People would have to say, « Never again my son will defend the interests of the nation outside its borders. » To defend a country on its borders, I agree, but beyond borders, never.
It reminds me of an American colonel I interviewed, Colonel Bacevich, who is also a university professor. I asked him in particular if he would refuse to obey an immoral order. He told me yes. Do you think people should disobey and with what tools?
Yes. The question that man must ask himself is very simple: who benefits from the wars? To the peoples? Never. But who do the wars? These are the children of the people. So why make a war for something that does not benefit a people? The only way for us to reach maturity is to end the wars, to end this stupidity that makes us believe that others are different from us. We are an integral part of others, we are nothing without others. We are the others.
What do you think of a president like Trump, recently elected?
It’s a tragedy. Since the election of Trump, I no longer see tragedies as before, because they are now anecdotal. Wars and monstrosities have become anecdotal.
Because how can we put such a guy, such a huge fairground entertainer, at the head of mankind’s destiny? How can we allow that? So it’s fine to condemn the warmongers when you choose someone who is not even able to manage his own life. He is able to trigger a nuclear war.
You think he is able to going to a nuclear clash with Russia or North Korea?
He’s capable of anything.
We saw that he dismissed his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, with a Tweet.
He knows nothing about politics. He is not a politician; he is a mountebank, a kind of clown who has never believed to be president. He just wanted to make himself interesting, as always. He is a man of the show. So, when he ran to this presidential campaign, it was not to become president, but to give himself a much wider visibility. He was in a kind of burlesque staging. And all of a sudden, what was unthinkable came true. He was the first to be surprised. From what I know, for a very long time, he could not believe he was being inducted in the head of the United States. It was not what he wanted and as he is someone very limited intellectually and politically, he is at the mercy of any smooth talker. Any advisor who has any kind of authority in the camp could very well use him.
Do you believe that the neocons lobby, which includes generals and large military personnel, who are the designers of the clash of civilizations, has an impact on Trump?
Deeply, I think the American people will not remain passive when they will understand that this man is putting in danger, not only the United States, but the whole world. Fortunately, there are a lot of enlightened people in the United States.
We have seen it just recently with the movement against the NRA, the weapons lobby.
There are people who are intelligent enough to understand that we can not leave the destiny of humanity in the hands of such a wacky one.
Do you think that humanity can hope to have a multipolar world with countries like Russia and China on one side and the United States and Europe on the other?
We have to go back to what I was saying earlier, it is up to the people to decide. The initiative should never be left to the politicians. Politicians are first of all opportunists; they are individualistic people who think of their personal ambition. What is a president? It is a traveling salesman who serves the economic superpowers and seeks markets. For who? Not for the peoples but for the economy of his country. But the economy of his country is embodied by the multinationals. So he is capable of all the concessions. It is therefore up to the peoples to limit these concessions.
It is better to understand once and for all that you have to live your life fully, that you have to accept life as it is. The world is flawed, it was conceived to be imperfect and it is up to us to know how to coexist with these imperfections. And among these imperfections to be corrected, it is especially the fact of evolving in a more or less serene space. We need tranquility, serenity, but the regression is so deep that it will be necessary to overcome mountains and mountains of prejudices to arrive at the first path that leads to salvation and maturity.
As a writer, do you not condemn the war in Yemen where America sells arms to Saudi Arabia?
Just now, I said that peace was in technical unemployment. Wars are also a market. What we see as atrocities, others see it as investments. We can not do anything against that.
With regard to the Algerian news, one is talking about a fifth term for Bouteflika. What is your reaction to that?
Honestly, since always, I had a kind of vision of Algeria. In the 1980s, I saw the Islamic advent coming. I also saw the end of this terrorism. I saw where Algeria was going but today, I do not know where she is going. There is no basis, no concrete or tangible landmarks that can help me to see where Algeria is going. I do not know. We are really in the dark because it is a situation that has never been seen anywhere. We do not even know if this people is governed or delivered to itself. I do not know.
Is it not dangerous for the whole region if Algeria collapses?
It is very very dangerous. It will be over for Africa.
And for Europe?
Of course. But that’s normal, it’s the collateral damage.
You are a great writer and you have been director of the Algerian Cultural Center in France. What can you tell us about that?
I was the boss and I did not receive instructions from anyone. I have agreed to lead the cultural Centre because I think culture is the only movement that can awaken us to our responsibilities and to get us out of lethargy to go towards happy ambitions. That’s why I decided to stay for days and days locked in an office, although I had a lot to lose because at this time I was solicited all over the world. Someone had to do this because there is so much talent and genius in Algeria.
You got a good assessment?
Yes, the Algerian Cultural Center was the most active in France.
In your opinion, should this president not leave the country alone and retire?
If I ran for presidential elections in 2013, it was to tell those people to leave.
Finally, what do you think of the terrorist phenomenon which is causing misfortune in Europe and whose ideological aspect has not been dealt with at all?
This is the big question. Is terrorism a social bankruptcy? Yes. Is terrorism a false ideology? Yes. Can terrorism be defeated? Yes. But the question is: do we really want to defeat it? Because it generates extraordinary markets.
Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen
Who is Yasmina Khadra?
Yasmina Khadra is the pseudonym of the Algerian writer Mohammed Moulessehoul, born in 1955 in Kenadsa, in the wilaya of Bechar, in the Algerian Sahara. When he was 9, his father, an officer of the ALN (National Liberation Army), sent him to the Revolutionary Cadet School in Tlemcen. He served as an officer in the ANP (National People’s Army) for 36 years. He had the rank of commander and fought terrorism in the 1990s during the black decade. He retired in 2000 to devote himself to his vocation: writing.
He was already writing while he was a soldier and published for 11 years under various pseudonyms. Her pen name Yasmina Khadra comes from the two names of his wife, the choice of these feminine first names being a tribute to his wife and to the Algerian woman. After his retirement from the army, he stayed with his family in Mexico, and in 2001, moved back to France where he still resides. It was at this time that he reveals his masculine identity by publishing his autobiographical book « L’Écrivain » and his complete identity in « L’imposture des mots » in 2002.
In 2008, at the request of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Yasmina Khadra becomes Director of the Algerian Cultural Center, a position he left in 2014 after having evoked « the absurdity » and « the suicidal escape » regarding Bouteflika’s fourth term. He ran as a candidate for the presidency of Algeria for the 2014 presidential elections.
In 2013, Yasmina Khadra made his entry into the Dictionary Le Petit Robert des noms propres.
A prolific writer of international renown, his books are translated into 42 languages and published in many countries, some adapted to cinema, theatre, comics, and choreography. Yasmina Khadra has received numerous literary prizes in various countries: Algeria, United States, France, Germany, Ireland, Singapore, etc.
His many books include: “Morituri » (1997) adapted to cinema by Okacha Touita in 2004, “L’automne des chimères“(1998), “Les Agneaux du Seigneur“ (1998), “A quoi rêvent les loups“ (1999), “L’Écrivain“ (2001), “L’Imposture des mots“ (2002), “Les Hirondelles de Kaboul“ (2002) adapted to the theater in France, Turkey, Brazil, Ecuador, « L’Attentat »(2005) adapted to the cinema under the same title by Zied Douéri, « Les Sirènes de Bagdad« (2006), « Ce que le jour doit à la nuit« (2008) adapted to the cinema by Alexandre Arcady in 2012, “Algérie“ with the photographer Reza (2012), « La Dernière Nuit du Raïs« (2015), « Dieu n’habite pas La Havane« (2016), « Ce que le mirage doit à l’oasis« with Lassaâd Metoui (2017), etc.
In 2013, he co-wrote a screenplay with Rachid Bouchareb and Olivier Lorelle for a Hollywood film directed by Rachid Bouchareb: Enemy Way with Forest Whitaker and Harvey Keitel.
Published in American Herald Tribune, April 01, 2018: https://ahtribune.com/politics/2202-yasmina-khadra.html
In French in Palestine Solidarité: http://www.palestine-solidarite.org/analyses.mohsen_abdelmoumen.020418.htm