Ya Khil Salem

  Fawzi Mellah





To the brutal force of the policemen, their truncheons and handcuffs, she did not want to oppose any blows, scratches, slaps or spit. Just a song. A Bedouin song: Ya Khil Salem bachrawahtouli... Crouching in front of the policemen, her hair in battle, her shaggy face, her eyes black with spite, her arms outstretched towards the sky, the old woman had begun to chant the song as if there had been an urgency to spit out those words that had been buried in her throat for a long time. She sang; she sobbed; she sobbed; she sang. As soon as a stanza ended, she would take it up again, shout it again, chant it... Again and again... In the mouth of this elderly lady, it was no longer a song, but a supplication, a wild and poignant prayer addressed to who knows what god. Sometimes looking at the sky, sometimes looking at the morgue, she sang, sang, shouted, lost the thread of the narrative, got excited, found it again, then, without fearing the truncheons facing her, nor the people massed around her, she started again from the beginning, sometimes screaming, sometimes sobbing... Ya Khil Salem.. Ya Khil Salem...


Fawzi Mellah, born in 1946 in Damascus, is a Tunisian writer and journalist. He is an academic living in Geneva, Switzerland. He has already published several plays, essays, reports, stories and novels.