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State of Emergency

State of Emergency

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particular soldiers
disfigured the face of my beloved
dead for having believed freedom

the Berlin Wall fell far from us
even as we were singing
of an earlier victory
so very quickly confiscated

I’ve no desire to beg pardon
Of my torturers – as if! –
I’ve no desire to close my eyes

Soleïman Adel Guémar’s poetry is powerfully lucid, moving and sometimes shocking. Rooted in Algerian experience, it speaks of urgent concerns everywhere – oppression, resistance, state violence, traumas and private dreams.

As Lisa Appignianesi writes in her introduction to this selection of Guémar’s poetry: “Deceptively casual, colloquial in their idiom, always dramatic in their pessimism, Guémar’s poems are a searing howl against the brutality which invades everyday Algerian life.… This volume marks an important moment: a record from the inside of a history which is too palpably of our times. Where before we had only newspaper headlines or the dry reports of NGOs, we now have a living voice, both political and lyrical – an intensely individual voice which speaks out freely and traces the lineaments of a tragic history.”

Soleïman Adel Guémar was born in 1963 into a left-wing political family of Berber ancestry. He spent 2 years in France working in publishing, then, at the promise of free national elections, returned to Algeria in 1991 to work for (among others) the weekly newspaper L’Evènement. The elections were cancelled when an Islamist party won a landslide at local elections and L’Evènement was banned. For 10 years, Guémar worked in Algeria as a freelance journalist and publisher, but fell foul of the regime and was subjected to a campaign of violent intimidation. In December 2002, he arrived at Heathrow, claiming political asylum and, two years later, was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK, where he now lives with his family in South Wales.