chapter  9
16 Pages

The Contortions of Forgiveness: Betrayal, Abandonment and Narrative Entrapment among the Harkis

WithVincent Crapanzano

Though Tikopia of the 1920s is as remote as one can get from the Harkis—those Algerians, now living in France, who sided with the French during the Algerian War of Independence—Firth’s ‘old tale’ raises several of the themes the author explores in this chapter: betrayal, abandonment, revenge, retaliation, storytelling and—singularly absent from Firth’s tale—forgiveness and apology. Despite warnings of likely bloodshed from of ficers who had fought alongside the Harkis, the French government ordered their demobilization after the signing of the Treaty of Evian on 18 March 1962, and sent them, unarmed, back to their villages. Despite Koranic stress on knowledge of the heart, the old Harkis, in the author experience, do not generally give rhetorical weight to the expression of inner experience. Ricoeur’s model of exchange ignores risk. Even the most conventionalized exchanges are dangerous. The victims of the offence are also caught: in an emotionally charged asymmetrical relationship with the proxy.