People title themselves in Avignon. Where you are from is of the upmost importance; everything else is secondary. If you are Avignonnaïse, that is current. But where are you from? Where is your past?

Many older citizens warble proudly that they are français français – French French. This, of course, is a very good title. It’s as good as it gets. You were born in France and you grew up in France. Avignonnaïse is your state of mind, and francais francais is your permanent condition.

Quietly, some residents of a similar age refer to themselves as français only. They skip the repetition because they were born abroad in les colonies – L’Algérie, La Tunisie, L’Indochinde. They are not les imigrés because their families were French and their lives are French and their complexion is French. Just because you were born in a francophone country doesn’t mean you are français instead of algérien. You can ask the mirror which one of the two you more likely fit.

You might have this misfortune of being a mahgreb, the poor class of darker imigrés from Northern Africa who practice that heathen faith based on Mohammed, the musulmane who started it all. You, mahgreb, are from the places the history books call North Africa. You are Muslim, you are brown, and nothing you can ever do will make you français. You run the kebab stands that lightly pepper the widest of the curving streets, the ones that can fit two cars at a time – if the pedestrians suck their stomach in. This is the history of all mahgreb, so if you are from outside La France, don’t bother asking them any questions. The français français will tell you what everyone knows – that they are all the same.

About the author

Born in New York City, Samantha Hall moved to Australia when she was two, and back to the USA when she was seven. She…

Read the full bio

Issue 13 · September 2011

Table of contents