Contemporary French Civilization

Discomforting bodies: French survivor testimony from the Algerian War

Contemporary French Civilization (2020), 45, (3-4), 351–363.


From 2012 to 2016, three French women published autobiographies about surviving bombings as children during the Algerian War (1954-1962). Danielle Michel-Chich who survived the Milk Bar bombing in Algiers in 1956 published an open letter to Zohra Drif, the woman who placed the bomb in the restaurant (Lettre à Zohra D., 2012), and Pied-Noir artist Nicole Guiraud who survived the same event published her diary Algérie 1962: Journal de l’Apocalypse in 2013. Nicole Simon who survived a bombing at a concert in Mostaganem, Algeria published her autobiography, La Bombe: Mostaganem, j’avais quinze ans, in 2016. In these works, the women relate in different ways how they negotiated their injured bodies at home in Algeria as well as in a tense political climate in France during and after the war. In this article I analyze survivor autobiographies to elucidate how transformed bodies impact the individual who survived the trauma but also how and why these women alternately hide their wounds to accommodate the people around them or accept and respond to the stares upon their bodies. By engaging with disability studies, I examine how the discomfort of the transformed body, for both the victims and the people who see them, exemplifies the much larger tensions surrounding the painful memory of the Algerian War.

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Author details

Hubbell, Amy L.