looked at me, slowly, intensively. I was
very impressed. He said in the end, in
French, "How is Madeleine doing?"
Bonnet from France
I returned to my friends' house, the guy asked me
if I wanted to see my grandfather's ex-property.
For sure, I did! The countryside must have stayed
the same. We drove around five miles, and we
stopped in a very hilly landscape. My land! It was
guy beside me spoke, but I did not listen. I
thought of that time when my grandfather worked on
this land. He never knew how to become rich as many
French did there; it was probably a sign of his
honesty. My grandfather died a short time after his
arrival in France: he missed his country too much
and lost his mind.
we saw a very old man leading his sheep. My friend
said to me, "Wait a minute! That man used to work
for your grandfather. I would like to introduce
man came to greet us. Then my friend pointed out a
barn in front of us on the top of the hill and
asked the shepherd in Arabic, "Ali, what is that
farm up there?"
Bonnet's farm," answered immediately Ali." (You
have to realize that this farm had become on
independence a state farm, a sort of worker
pointing to me, my friend said. "Look, he is
Bernard Bonnet, Georges' son, Albert's grandson."
looked at me, slowly, intensively. I was very
impressed. He said in the end, in French, "How is
was my grandmother. The mother of my dad. It
brought tears to my eyes. Thirty-five years later,
Ali thought he was still on the Bonnet farm and
remembered the name of my grandmother. I took him
in my arms and I gave him some news of the family.
My grandmother was suffering from Alzheimer disease
in an institution for elderly, near my parents'
home. She had forgotten everybody, even my father.
She did not know any more where and why she was
living. And, in her native land, far from her, a
ninety-something-year-old man was still living with
told him she was fine and still very active. A
tender smile lit his face. I had the feeling that
he was waiting to get some news of my grandmother,
and that now he thought he could die. Maybe he had
been secretly in love with my grandmother. Maybe
also my grandparents were very kind to their
employees. I was a little less ashamed to be a
to Ali, I know now what a native land is. My roots
were not a house or a land, but just some traces in
the heart and the head of a man. Thanks to Ali, I
understood, beyond the historical and political
point of view, what my family's path was. Nowadays
Ali is probably dead. Our meeting was a magic
instant, quite surrealist. He passed on to me the
Published by Sandy and Thomas Peters