Freedom

Abdelkader Benali's first novel, Wedding by the Sea, was published in the UK by Weidenfeld & Nicholson. His second and third novels have been published in Holland and Italy.

The swimmer, the bridesmaid and the Party

Beirut dies a bridesmaid each evening, and wakes in the morning at her own funeral.

I've decided to swim today, not to write, and in the pool – fifty metres long, fifteen wide, enough space to house the dead of the day – the same swimmer I left yesterday goes up and down. She spreads her arms like a bird and steals through the water like a woman.

It is the end of the afternoon and the death of the day is only half on us. I have nothing to fear.

I read my book on the Party of God, turn the pages mechanically and realize that this story of resistance/terrorism needs to be read as fiction, even though the author didn't mean it that way. Born out of a mix of humiliation and longing to make a clean sweep with the oppressor, grown into a movement of resistance, organization, military discipline, religious fervour, charity and rhetoric – it's the kind of enemy you can only conjure in fantasy.

But the swimmer has my attention. She swims so naturally, you wonder about her existence on land, if she can even stand on two legs, this water creature. Her boyfriend is sitting on the side, reading a book and mirroring me. For the first time in weeks I see someone reading a book. I can't make out the title, but it's bound to be one with a hero, a castle and a princess who swims. He is used to her concentrating and he seems to know better than me how long she will continue, because he doesn't look at the water once, she doesn't grab his attention once, he just follows the strokes of the book.

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