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A Fascinating insight into the Immigrant experience in France

Newspaper: The Book Trail
Date: Oct 10 2019

Big brother is a driver for an app-based car service. Closed off for eleven hours every day in his cab, constantly tuned in to the radio, he ruminates about his life and the world that is waiting just on the other side of the windshield.Little brother set out for Syria several months ago, full of idealism. Hired as a nurse by a Muslim humanitarian organization, he has recently stopped sending any news back home.

This silence eats away at his father and brother, who ask themselves over and over again: why did he leave? One evening, the intercom rings. Little brother has come home.

The family in this novel live in Paris and are representative of so many others. The father is Syrian who emigrated to France when youngm, married a French woman and had two sons. These sons are the subjects of the novel and we find out about their lives and experiences as two boys/men as half French, half Syrian.

The father drives a taxi around Paris. A job which was good enough to support his family until Uber and modern day apps changed the way that we travel and view taxi journeys. The Older Brother (nameless until the end of the novel) also drives a taxi and thinks of his younger brother who works for a Humanitarian Aid agency in Paris. He has experience of being in Syria and this contrast is what this novel is built upon. Where is this younger brother now?

This is more than a novel about racism, integration and fitting in. There are various ‘classes’ of Arab in France : those in Africa are viewed very differently to those in the Middle East for example:

“He was an Arab, Moroccan, fortyish or so, and I told him to cut it out with the French, which calmed him down like I knew it would, because there’s nothing worse than talking to a Maghrebi in French. It reminds them of colonialism, and makes them feel like they’re imitating their former oppressors. Anyway, after that he gritted his teeth and started listening to me. I didn’t even have to say anything much; he could read all my doubts and anxieties in my face: Syria, ISIS, the Islamic State. Terrorist. Words of fear. We didn’t even need to say them anymore; they hovered like bees in the air; you couldn’t see them but you could feel them, flying and stinging invisibly, landing on brains in flower to feed off the pistil, make honey, and take it back to the desert.”