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achouri fethi

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The Eternal Trauma
by achouri fethi   

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Publisher:  JustFiction Edition ISBN-10:  3845445726 Type: 


Copyright:  19 Jan 2012 ISBN-13:  9783845445724


ETERNAL TRAUMA is an impressive tale of death full of passion for loved ones loss, a true story of a young doctor’s life plagued with trauma that knew no boundaries

Set in contemporary Algeria, ETERNAL TRAUMA goes from a protected young doctor in the bosom of his family to a bus trip into the unknown breeches of fighting and killing. Befriending the twenty-year old reckless Moha, the two are thrown into a series of misadventures and ordeals, which makes them as close as the bark to the tree. Ambushed by a terrorist group, the two witness the slaughter of all their bus comrades. Taken to serve the group in the woods, Mustapha falls in love with Amanda, the pretty English journalist whom Djafar, the group's leader has captured to make her his fourth wife. Months go by and Mustapha's despise towards the cruel murderers grows unbearable, especially when he meets two French captives who have lost all their friends because of Djafar's brutality. A heaven-sent plan and an underground secret tunnel help Mustapha and the three European captives to escape, but not Moha who sacrifices his life trying to save his best friend.

Finally, Mustapha would have the chance to discover Djafar's little
kingdom. All the vivid images, which overcrowded his memory about this
place, had suddenly vanished.
'Is this the Douar?' Mustapha asked Safouane.
'Yes,' replied Safouane. 'Djafar brought us here when I was twelve.'
'It's smaller than I thought.'
'Small but pretty, isn't?'
'Yes,' said Mustapha. 'It really is beautiful.'
- 279 -
The Douar was composed of about three dozen stone houses and a few of
mud brick gourbis in the environs of the settlement. There were also a
mosque, a fortified threshing floor (Kasbah) and a gathering place for the
assembly of Djafar and his assistants, who were to control the village life
and prepare the group's assaults.
At first sight, much of the Douar appeared to be of ancient history. Each
stone seemed to be a book as old as the Berber fairy tales. Each alleyway
held a legendary story as intricate as night. And each house told a novel with
pages gnawed by rats. Overpowered by the height of ridge, over which the
Douar was settled, Mustapha seemed to be transported back instantaneously
to an age of ancient Berber intelligence beyond any comprehension. That
had to be his first impression.
Furthermore, the layout of these houses seemed to indicate the settlement
had a hierarchical social structure, with perhaps Djafar, overseeing the
community's daily activities. There were at least eleven normal dwellings,
with uniform size and layout, lying in terraces one above the other and
surrounding a larger, more elaborate one. To the west appeared an
enclosure, having a single, small peripheral house, perhaps for animals or
- 280 -
But the main thing that struck Mustapha was that the whole settlement was
pervaded by a strange air of sadness and desolation and a deafening silence,
as if a funeral had just taken place. Allah only knew what it must be like for
Mustapha and Moha to live in such hell on earth, was in contrary paradise
on earth for Djafar and his people.
At each house, there were a handful of men, rather soldiers sitting around.
Some were putting on the same uniforms as government troops, with plain
olive green with black boots, and others wearing Taliban clothes, complete
with black turbans. Most of them had Kalashnikovs and a couple of largercalibre
weapons with belts of bullets slung across shoulders. They seemed to
have never tasted some of modernity’s basics, yet, as it appeared, this did
certainly not hamper them from enjoying life in such a place.
Mustapha turned his head and noticed some boys riding donkeys towards
their homes, and others rolling in with wooden wheelbarrows laden with
bags past fields of crops. Most of them were in their late teens and wore
white caps with a rectangle cut into the front.
'This might be the way the children dress in here,' Mustapha muttered to
himself and went on behind the rest of the group. Some steps ahead, a dozen
- 281 -
of boys and girls caught his attention. They were gathering around a
borehole, near which were two pumps, sucking clean, cool water out of the
earth. Then, a thickly bearded bloke came into sight, and as soon as they
noticed him, they started queuing themselves in a regular line, some holding
clay jars and buckets, and others aluminium pots, plastic canisters and
anything else that could contain liquid.
Mustapha had a sad thought at the idea that while somewhere other children
would be studying; those at Djafar's village were playing or doing nothing in
particular, as they had no school to attend.
Curiosity grew in Mustapha's mind when he saw a boy, no older than
Safouane and with long, sandy-blonde hair, standing on one of the gourbi's
top and holding the Holly Koran in his right hand and another thick book in
his left. Around him were gathered a small group of kids, many of them
were too young with an age range of about eight to twelve years.
'Brothers,' said the boy to his pupils. 'You'll be martyrs sooner or later. And
you'll be rewarded paradise, where rivers of milk and honey flowed. So if
you carry out attacks on civilians and Army troops you'll go to paradise.'
- 282 -
'Amen,' the pupils all agreed.
Mustapha turned around to Safouane and snarled, 'What the hell he's saying!
He may be joking, mayn't he?' He became alarmed by the teenager’s talk of
suicide bombings and paradise.
'Keep quiet, Doctor, please,' said Safouane. 'This is the way the boys are
taught religion here. I don't want Djafar to hear you criticizing anything.'
A few adults were also gathered, but standing somewhat apart from the
young group and watching from a distance. They were sitting in the shade of
an oak tree opposite the group. One of them had small portable radio on his
lap. This might be their only source of information and link to the rest of the
'Never thought I’d see the day that the kids would be so interested in
becoming a suicide bomber like us,' remarked one of them.
'Oh,' hailed another as he caught sight of Djafar. 'Welcome back to your
homeland, Emir!'
'Many thanks, brothers,' replied Djafar. 'I really missed you.'
- 283 -
'Ah, we missed you too, Djafar,' said the man, and then looked at Mustapha
and Moha with an evil stare. 'But tell me,' he added. 'Who are these two
beardless young men? New fighters?'
'The white one is my new physician,' replied Djafar. 'His name is Mustapha.
The dark one is Madani's brother. His name is Mohammed.'
'Madani?' exclaimed the man and looked at each other in confusion.
'You mean Madani the Great Emir?' said the one with the portable radio.
'Right,' answered Djafar. 'Madani in person… nobody else.'
'But, why is he with you?'
'He wants to join my group,' answered Djafar, and then looked back towards
Moha and said, 'Don't you?'
'Oh, of course,' replied Moha, a little bit surprised. 'It's my great honor to be
with your group.' He then lowered his head and said inwardly, and it will be
a great honour to see all of you dead before my eyes.
'Well,' Djafar addressed Moha and Mustapha. 'The first three days, you are
my guests. Afterward, you’ll start working as well as anybody here.
Mustapha and Moha nodded yes to their Emir.
- 284 -
'Zoubeir?' Djafar called his brother. 'Take them to the captives' gourbi.'
'All right, Emir,' said Zoubeir.
Immediately, the two followed Zoubeir across a narrowing track, which
passed through the Douar and separated the houses from one another. They
were conscious of the crowd of bearded people, who stood on both sides.
They seemed to regard them with a degree of suspicion and aloofness as
feelings of hate and discrimination were burning in their eyes.
As he raised his head, Mustapha's eyes met theirs. Strangely, he was able to
hear the animosity's words, which were running in their heads. Miscreant
souls! Unbelievers! Go to hell!
'How long do you think they'll keep us in here?' Mustapha asked Moha as
they walked behind Zoubeir, who appeared rather sleepy.
Moha kept silent. Perhaps, he did not have any answer for now. Or, he was
afraid to tell his friend that they would stay here until their very last breaths.
'You've got nothing to say, have you?' Mustapha whispered in his friend's
'I don't know, Mustapha,' replied Moha. 'The army will probably come and
save us.'
- 285 -
'You're dreaming, my friend,' said Mustapha.
'Then why do you ask me?'
'Shut it!' Zoubeir interrupted them. 'Just keep walking without speaking,
It was expected that Djafar would go to his house and rest there with one of
his wives, but he walked up straight to one end of the village, where was a
hut built of sticks and pieces of turf and inside which guns and ammunition
could be seen. He carefully placed his Kalashnikov on a small round table
and went out without speaking to anybody, as if he was searching someone
he could not find.
'Come on you two!' Zoubeir shouted up at Mustapha and Moha. 'I won't stay
with you until night. Your new shelter is waiting for you.'
It was late afternoon when Zoubeir escorted their captives to the gourbi,
where they were intended to stay. On the way, Mustapha could enjoy the
colourful blue and lilac sky at sunset over the village. Was that sign of what
the oncoming night would bring to both of them. The energy of blue helped
him to look beyond the immediate environment, expanding his perceptions
towards the unknown, perhaps salvation. Though pale lilac was supposed to
- 286 -
bring love for humanity, our doctor was expecting only disdain and evil in
the foreseeable future.
'The gourbi seems just too far away, doesn't it?' Moha said suddenly.
'We're about to reach it,' Zoubeir returned. 'It's located out of the Douar.'
And with this, they walked on through the narrow streets of the Kasbah,
strange crumbled buildings and forgotten corners. At the end of each street,
there were olive groves and vineyards interspersed with each family’s
orchard or garden, with mandarin and lemon trees. Yards with sheep and
goats were dotted about.
'It looks like you need some sleep, don't you?' Zoubeir sniped maliciously.
'It's important for you to get enough rest in the captives' gourbi.' And with
his fingers, he pointed to the edge of the settlement.
As he spoke, a burqa-clad Barbie-like young lady emerged on the balcony of
the Douar highest house. She rubbed her sleepy eyes and wiped a hand
across her forehead, letting down some of her blond veiled hair,
which gleamed like molten gold in the warm firelight. Her beauty was
submerging from every hidden part of her body and her face completely
- 287 -
covered with a black headscarf. Mustapha could notice nothing of it, nothing
at all, except her uncommonly stunning aquamarine eyes, which were as
deep as oceans and as grey as a clouded winter sky, but as cold as an alpine
'Incredible!' Mustapha mouthed the word in silence. 'Who is she? What's
doing here?'
Hardly had Moha caught sight of a female posture when he shyly lowered
his head. He then darted his head over to Mustapha, took note of his totally
puzzled expression and slapped him lightly on the shoulder.
'Wake up,' he said. 'Zoubeir will kill you.'
Mustapha just nodded. He was unable to shift his gaze away from her. He
could not help looking straight up into her beautiful pair of eyes, which
tightened as she glanced away, at the horizon, where the sun was setting
right then. 'Oh my…' his voice died in his throat as he stared at the maiden.
'Hush!' Moha put his hand over his mouth just in time to keep him from
saying what might irritate Zoubeir. He then looked straight into Mustapha's
eyes and shook his head as if to say, 'Here, it's forbidden to watch women.'
- 288 -
Mustapha nodded to him and keep walking behind Zoubeir. But at intervals
he stole a glance at the angel that had already captured his heart. I must
know who she is, he was saying to himself.
And while trying to stretch her body, the lady's scarf slowly slid to the floor,
and Mustapha saw, standing before him, one of, if not the most beautiful
woman he had ever seen. Time seemed to stand still for him for him. It felt
like he dared not move, not even breathe. A little weak and overwhelmed,
he got no clue what to say or do.
At first, the blonde did not take notice of the men getting right under the
balcony, until suddenly lifted her head down to the street and could just
make out their silhouettes at the corner. As soon as she caught sight of the
three, the lady blushed for shame, as red as tomato, and quickly went back
to her shelter.
For Mustapha, it was no doubt love at first sight, though this could in many
ways be seen as irrational. Good heavens! What's happening to me? he
thought. He was unable to understand how he felt, for he had never been in
love. She can't be a human being! I'm sure I saw an angel.
- 289 -
Is this love or infatuation? Might it be because he saw no females since he
had said his farewells to Khalti Icha and Yasmina? It did not matter a bit
what this was, but Mustapha felt attracted towards the blonde lady. This was
the only truth he knew.
I've never felt this way about any woman before! He thought again. Am I in
love? Have I found my soul mate? But real love needs time, doesn't it? So
what should I call this? I am infatuated with a girl I've just met?
Zoubeir waited a moment, allowing him to absorb the surprise of what he
had seen, and then scoffed, 'You liked her, didn't you?' And without waiting
for his response, he added, 'Pretend you have seen nothing, okay?'
'Who is she?' Mustapha asked.
'None of your business! Keep your nose out of things you'll never
understand.' Zoubeir sneered and looked at Mustapha with contempt.
'Follow me without asking further questions. But if you want to dye, ask
Djafar when you meet him.'
There was no more conversation on the way, each being engrossed in his
own thoughts and, in a total silence they skirted around the edge of the
Douar, until they arrived to a public-toilet-like gourbi. Just on their left, the
- 290 -
land fell away to a wide shallow river running between huge rock
formations, where women with afghan-like burqas were kneeling and
washing clothes on stones by the riverbank.
Zoubeir began to cough the way Algerians did to announce their arrival
before entering. 'Females should ensure that their lower garment covers their
ankles in the presence of strangers.' He said it in standard Arabic, loudly
enough so that the women could hear him.
No sooner had they heard him than they ran into the woods like frightened
children when a ghostly shape appeared beside them. Immediately, they
melted away among the trees like sugar in water and gradually faded away
within the space of ten seconds.
'What are they scared of?' asked Mustapha.
'Perhaps they've missed their prayers,' Zoubeir grunted, his top lip curling up
to show teeth in something of a snarl.
Mustapha shook his head in disbelief at Zoubeir's exaggerating answer, and,
cursing under his breath, pretended to believe him. 'But this is not the fit
time of prayers, is it?' he said, grinning.
- 291 -
'So they may have seen Satan,' Zoubeir retorted angrily, little demons
dancing before his eyes.
'Satan?' Mustapha exclaimed as the grin died away and his face grew
sombre and serious. 'What do you mean?'
'What the hell is on your mind?' Zoubeir became suddenly nervous. 'I said
stop asking me! Can't you understand, idiot?'
'How dare you call me idiot?' Mustapha spoke with as much force as he
could find. He suddenly felt his dignity violated by someone, who was
dishonourable in both his thoughts and deeds. 'I'm a doctor. I've been at
university for seven years. You know what means seven years studying
medicine?' And then without waiting for an answer, he went on, 'It means
hundreds of days and nights of incredible labour and fatigue. I wonder what
you were doing whilst.'
'I was busy fucking idiots like you.' Zoubeir burst into a pouf of malicious
laughter and then took a couple of steps forward, raised his rifle and aimed it
at Mustapha, who stepped back, eyes suddenly wide with fear at the sight of
the gun's threatening little black muzzle.
Although Moha was certain that Zoubeir would never dare to do something
drastic, like shooting at Mustapha without Djafar's permission, he tried to
intervene in hopes of decreasing his tearing rage. 'Ok, Zoubeir! Calm down,
dear.' Moha sounded like he was laughing but his eyes were filled with fear.
- 292 -
He knew Zoubeir was unpredictable and could become violent whenever he
felt challenged. 'OK, I need you to calm down.' He paused and, with a smile
put his hands on the shoulders of both Mustapha and Zoubeir. 'Listen to me,'
he resumed. 'We're members of the same group. We've got to keep this fight
going against our enemies, not amongst ourselves…'
'Don't say that, Moha,' Mustapha interrupted, lifting Moha's arm off his
shoulder. 'Everybody here stands for everything I'm against. I chose to be a
member of them only to preserve my life.'
Zoubeir threw down his gun, withdrew an old bone-handled sharp knife out
of the folds of his robe and went to hit him.
'Go on then, try and hit me,' Mustapha warned through clenched teeth and
raised his fists. 'I'm ready.'
Zoubeir's reaction was to spit out another line of insults and turned up his
coat sleeves, as far as they could go, and then raised the knife up.
'Oh, stop this.' Moha made his face as angry looking as possible and then
grabbed Mustapha's arm and swung him against the gourbi. 'Djafar wouldn't
be very pleased to hear that.' Then he turned and smiled at Zoubeir. 'Excuse
- 293 -
him, Zoubeir. He didn't mean to offend you. He's still being affected by
what's been happening to him during the last couple of days.'
'Next time,' Zoubeir said scornfully, sparks of anger leaping in his eyes.
'You don't need even to defend yourself.'
Mustapha said nothing, but sniffed back a breath.
'Well,' Zoubeir resumed. 'I don't want to be like this.' His temper simmered
down a little. 'Believe me, dear doctor,' his voice unexpectedly grew soft, so
drifting and lost that it surprised even his ears. 'Your behaviour provokes me
to anger. I've already forbidden you to answer me back, but you're still
defying me.'
Mustapha furrowed his brow, not understanding. I'm sure Zoubeir's got
insane. He thought, lowering his eyes. How could he control his temper
during an extreme rage? Someone else might have fired at me.
'Why are you silent?' asked Zoubeir.
Fearful of the repercussions of defying Zoubeir, Mustapha refused to reply.
Even though, He felt frustrated and angry at not being able to do the things
he could, there was a bit of redemption of having a friend at his side, a
- 294 -
brother like Moha, who could pull strings to make life just that little bit
bearable in this hell.
'All right,' Zoubeir said with a shrug. 'This is your last chance, doctor. You
won't be warned no more. Though, next time you'll only get yourself to
'So,' said Moha. 'Shall we get in? I'm so tired that I'm beginning to stop
feeling human. I need at least a three days sleep.'
'No,' replied Zoubeir. 'Stay out. I'll be back here soon.'
Both lads nodded, and without further words, they quietly sat on a wooden
bench by the door, which leant against the frame like a weary old man. And
as soon as Zoubeir approached it, it hissed and slid open. Although summer,
the gourbi was emitting a very strange aura, which was cold as a snowy day
and as unforgiving as a velvet ant’s sting.
'I'm sure there's someone inside,' Mustapha murmured to his friend.
'So am I,' Moha murmured back.
The two waited for some time outside the gourbi, expecting to hear a mutter
signalling that Zoubeir was with someone else inside, but it didn't come, as
- 295 -
if he were caught into an enclosed gravestone. They remained silent for a
while, staring thoughtfully at the gourbi.
'I don't think he's one of Djafar's men.' Mustapha went excited to discover
who might lie beyond the other side of the door. 'Let's wait and see.'
They waited and waited until finally they heard Zoubeir's voice shouting at
'You're just stupid and ugly seventy year old disbeliever,' Zoubeir repeated
this sentence twice.
Mustapha and Moha walked around the back of the gourbi and, after having
put their ears against the wall, they tried to overhear the conversation of
Djafar and who seemed to be an old prisoner. Just a little further on the
gourbi's roof, Moha caught a glimpse of a slight slit. He immediately
ramped over the wall and squinted through the narrow opening, which gave
sight to a heavily darkened room that did not resemble to rooms we might
find in a particular house, flat or office, not even in a building or in any
particular country. It would be very hard to say exactly how it appeared, but
it did look very much like any gourbi's rooms existing everywhere in
- 296 -
Algeria's country, which Mustapha had not yet the honour and chance to live
in somewhere similar. Completely intent on the gourbi's interior through the
rectangular slit, Mustapha had completely stopped breathing, so vulnerable,
so much danger.
'Good heavens,' Mustapha suddenly blurted. 'I can't believe my eyes.'
Moha looked at his friend, unfathomably surprised. 'What?' he whispered.
'Tell me what you're seeing.'
Mustapha could not answer, and instead kept peering through the slit. And
after what seemed like an eternity, Zoubeir stood up and walked to the door.
'Oh, shit!' said Mustapha, terrified. 'He's coming out!'
'Back to the bunch,' whispered Moha urgently.
Quickly, they hurried back to the bunch, where they sat down and began to
talk so as to make Zoubeir believe that they did not leave it while he was
Zoubeir then pulled the door wide open.
- 297 -
'Where did you go?' he asked them.
'We? Go?' they wondered.
'Of course you!' Zoubeir confirmed. 'You're breathing deeply and hardly as
though you've been running away.'
'No, no,' they both said. 'We were just waiting for you.'
'If you think I'm being obtuse,' said Zoubeir, 'then you're wrong.'
'What do you mean?' asked Mustapha.
'Well, well,' Zoubeir retorted with a nasty smile. 'When I went in, you,
Mustapha, were at my right. As for you, Moha, you were at my left. But
now, it's totally the opposite, isn't it?'
'In fact…, err, err..., we…' they both stammered, not knowing what to say.
'Speak up!' Zoubeir's anger began to bubble and his famous temper to boil.
'Stop acting foolishly, you silly stupid clowns. I'm pretty sure you were
spying me from behind the gourbi.'
Totally unable to believe having been spotted, the two looked at each other,
and identical expressions of worry creased their faces. They trembled as
they saw the murderous look on Zoubeir’s infuriated face.
'What have you got to say for yourself? Eh?' A battle raged across Zoubeir's
features as it raged in his heart. It was a battle between his duty of obeying
to his Emir and his instinctive passion of slaying others. 'Don’t be silent like
- 298 -
damn rocks, ladies, speak, or I’ll bury my knife in your bellies! I know
you've got nothing to say because you can't prove the opposite.'
'Listen, Zoubeir,' said Mustapha. 'Please, please once again, stop calling us
stupid, idiot, and silly and so on. I'm a doctor. And you know what means a
doctor, don't you?'
'Oh, you know?' said Zoubeir. 'For me, you're a silly little medic with the
attitude of a silly little medic.'
'I'm fed up with your insolence,' Mustapha snapped. 'I'm fed up being
insulted. I'm not your servant. Djafar spared my life only to serve the whole
group, to cure their injuries not your madness.'
'What?' Zoubeir cried foaming at his mouth. And without warning, he
grasped Mustapha's face in his huge, rough hand, forcing him to look at him
directly, and then drew back his fist and plunged it with full force into
Mustapha's stomach. 'How dare you defy me!' His bellow filled the
surrounding area.
Mustapha dropped to his knees and then fell down on his back, the laboured
breathing gurgling in his chest. He grimaced with pain and his eyes misted,
suppressing the urge to cry out. It seemed like life was ebbing away from
him as he felt something like lightning striking him inside.
- 299 -
Moha tried to intervene to protect his friend. His strength gained in his fury
and he pulled him vigorously down on the bench.
Surprised by his intervention, Zoubeir became furious. He stood up rapidly.
'You say or do anything,' he threatened, 'and I’ll put your brain on that wall.'
He then shoved him out of the way and squatted down on the ground,
focusing the gun at his forehead.
'Stop, Zoubeir,' Djafar's voice came from the other side of the gourbi.
'You're killing him,' he roared as he sped towards them.
'Stay out of this, Djafar,' replied Zoubeir. 'He deserves all he gets. I wish
he'd died.'
'Then who should be doctoring you?' returned Djafar. 'Or shall I ambush
another bus to get another doctor?'
The two brothers stood, a few short yards between them, silent, eyes fixed
on each other, but neither could force words out, until Mustapha let out a
furious cry of pain, and then spun to the left.
'Are you all right?' Djafar asked Mustapha.
- 300 -
Mustapha looked up to Djafar, tear-drenched face glistening in the sunset
beams, which cast gold light on his face. 'You will die for this, murderer!'
he cried, with a look of a scornful hatred on his face as he stood up. 'You've
despised me from the first day.' Then he gave a gurgling cough and a few
specks of blood splashing his lips. 'Admit it!' he screamed as loud as he
could and cursed at him under his breath.
'You hear him, Djafar?' snarled Zoubeir. 'For that I just said he deserved all
he got.'
Paying little attention to what his brother was saying, Djafar opened the
door wide and ushered them into the gourbi, where a storm lamp, hissing
and glowing insufficiently, illuminated some parts of the half-darkened
dwelling. 'Salaam everybody!' He wiped sweat from his forehead with his
sleeve, took his torch out of his pocket, and then switched it on. Ahead of
him, a man's shadows cast a distorted shape on the wall.
Mustapha and Moha lifted their heads and looked at the opposite of the
silhouettes to see a grey-haired and green-eyed old white man, with bushy
grey eyebrows that hid most of his wrinkled face. Besides his endearing,
saintly look, however, he was, at their surprise, wearing the Episcopal
vestments of Latin-Rite Catholic ministers and monks.
- 301 -
While Djafar approached the Christian, Moha looked over to his friend and
nodded as if to tell him, 'I understand now why you said you couldn't
believe your eyes.' In fact, Mustapha was so much surprised to see a catholic
priest in Djafar's village that he could not tell his friend about him.
'Well,' said Djafar. 'I'd leave you with your guests. Time to get to know each
other better.' And with this, he slammed the door behind him and walked
straight towards the street that might lead to his house.
The old monk stood leaning on his fists over a wooden table, which nearly
filled the gourbi. He greeted his two visitors with a beatific smile which
never left his face. 'Bonsoir, mes fils.' He paused and then added with a very
standard French, 'Vous auriez certainement dû souffrir pendant les deux
derniers jours.' He looked at them in the eyes for awhile, as though trying to
study them. He tried to sound and appear as saintly as his countenance
dictated he should. His language was a mixture between French-sounding
dialect and broken, heavily accented Algerian accent, having also a
vocabulary of its own, which tended to be pompous and pontifical. 'Have a
seat please… I'm father Gregory…Nice to meet you… I'm sure you're tired
and hungry.'
- 302 -

Professional Reviews

Random House Critique of ETERNAL TRAUMA
There is much about your story – sample chapters and full synopsis – that is really touching and powerful. Fictional accounts of lives in countries going through upheaval, violence and unrest can often serve as an illuminating light on the horribly real problems facing these countries – and it can be very affecting for a reader sitting comfortably and safely in their armchair at home. The Kite Runner achieved this most recently and famously, and some of the techniques employed by Khaled Hosseini can be looked-at to raise the emotional tempo of your story and hook readers as successfully as he did.

That early description you have of the food being prepared for cooking – the peppers, tomatoes, spices etc – is very evocative. You are transporting your reader to an unfamiliar setting through their senses; in this case smell, sight and taste and this means they will be immediately engaged with the narrative. I’d love to see more of this throughout your book – really bombard your reader with the sights and sounds and smells of Algeria – as Hosseini manages to convey the heat and tension of Afghanistan. Give us more physical descriptions of people so we can immediately picture them – we are told that Khalti Houria is ‘generous and kind-hearted’, which is fine, but we need to know what she looks like, too. You do this brilliantly with Ami Issa, your description of him as having ‘a blurred face as though eroded by age’ is lovely.

Perhaps you could convey the fact that Khalti Houria is a generous and kind-hearted person by describing actions which reveal these qualities, rather than putting the simple words down in black and white. This mantra from publishers of “Show, don’t Tell!” is one that is very important for a writer to crack – you will keep the book’s momentum going and increase the interest of the reader if you do this. Mustapha’s introduction also suffers a bit: ‘He was so friendly with all his neighbours and relatives that everyone had a good word to say about him’ – instead, tell the reader about something friendly he has done, and let them naturally come to the conclusion that this means he is a good guy! A much more effective way of building character.

I think you should concentrate hugely on making your characters really vibrant and alive before the car bomb that so changes Mustapha’s life. He has the potential to be such a wonderful character – so noble and brave and sweet-natured – but I want to be rooting more for him and his family, feel really involved in their pain after the terrorist attack. Be careful, too, at how you report the attack – keep the dialogue short and sharp and realistic. For example, when Yasmina is hit by shrapnel, she merely says “Nothing to worry about . . . It’s just a superficial wound!” – this doesn’t do justice to the terror and confusion she would surely be feeling. Try and avoid being too sweeping (‘they opened their eyes and saw dozens of human corpses and body parts littering the ground’ doesn’t pack the emotional punch it should, and I would re-visit the scene of the carnage caused by the car bombs in some detail – make it scarier, wilder, less controlled.
Moha sounds like a very interesting character-in-the-making: I really liked the way you set him up as a rude, cocky little kid and then strip back this façade when he tells Mustapha about the death of his older brother. And Madani sounds brilliantly evil (really like that we find out he is related to Moha!), so really go to town on him and set him up as the dark foil to Mustapha’s light goodness.

I wish you all the best for your writing! Lauren Buckland, Random House

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