On Sunday, June 6th, 2021, Wendy’s Subway hosted Litmus Press for a bilingual reading and book launch of Hocine Tandjaoui’s Clamor, translated by Olivia C. Harrison and Teresa Villa-Ignacio. Introduced by E. Tracy Grinnell and Amanda Monti. This free, online event took place on Zoom and was streamed on Youtube.
Hocine Tandjaoui’s semi-autobiographical prose poem, Clameur, was first published by 108 Éditions in 2017. In the recently released Litmus Press edition of Clamor, the French and English texts are co-presented, along with a new preface by the author, an afterword by the translators, and a discography of the music that saturates the text.
In the foreword to the English edition, Tandjaoui writes: “Nothing is harder than living and identifying as a survivor, especially if one was born in a colony—Algeria—that quickly became a country ‘on the path to decolonization,’ with all its dramas of injustice and cruelty, with its untethered violence. I was not even five years old when the war broke out outside my window.” In Clamor, Tandjaoui sifts the violence of decolonization in the Algerian War of Independence from France, telling this story from the rarely heard perspective of a child. Set against the backdrop of war and revolution, Clamor also offers an account of the colonial soundscape and a dazzling poetic evocation of Tandjaoui’s discovery of African-American music—jazz, soul, rhythm and blues—broadcast on the radio during his childhood in colonized Algeria.
“This clamor of the world,” Tandajoui writes, “unleashed by the city’s loudspeakers and the omnipresent radio, assailed me night and day, took possession of me, led me to discover music, its sounds, its notes, its melodies, all the musical genres in their infinite variety.” Captivated by the songs of Black American vocalists—or, what Tandjaoui describes as “aria[s] colored by grief”—the soundtrack of Black liberation movements in the U.S. becomes the sounding board of decolonization in Algeria. That the rhythms of violence and hope transgress the meaning of national borders makes sense, for, as Tandjaoui writes, “all wars are civil wars, all wars are fratricidal wars.” A gorgeously written and translated work, Clamor reckons with the music and voices of artists of the African diaspora that rise above the din of war, giving testimony to the transnational solidarities forged across the decolonizing world in the 1950s and 60s.
Watch a recording of the event here!