The Sound of Bullets

Words cannot even begin to describe the horror that happened on November 13th in Paris. Yet Mehdi Meklat and Badroudine Said Abdallah did something touching in their essay entitled “Le bruit des balles” (literally “The sound of bullets”). That’s why I …

Words cannot even begin to describe the horror that happened on November 13th in Paris. Yet Mehdi Meklat and Badroudine Said Abdallah did something touching in their essay entitled “Le bruit des balles” (literally “The sound of bullets”). That’s why I felt the urge to translate it in English, in the best way I could, so that more people could read it.

A street, very near République. It was around 10PM. And the sound of war…

The lady was wearing a white coat. And small ballet pumps. She had some kind of bun that was getting untied as she was moving faster. She was walking in one way yet looked in the other. At this moment, she was alone in this street where gunshots were showering down. There was a characteristic resonance, that sound so sudden, so odd, bullets sliding in the air. She was walking, terrified, eyes wide open, running away from the horror she was hoping to leave behind. And then, on the other side of the street, a crowd started running, coming out of nowhere.

Everybody was screaming and trying to hide in any corner. Panic made a man stumble. He fell down, then stood up and kept on with his hellish race, the price of his life. Bullets, with no interruption. Seconds, not that long really, still this image of crowds, hysteria, fear, which will last until the end of our days.

Calm never really came back in this street. Night was getting darker and darker. People all over the place. Cold hearts. Only a man started dancing. A few hundrers of meters away from the attacks. In a neighborhood where life had fainted. While the TV was yelling terrible words, horror, war, terrorists, death. Only a man started dancing, as if it was the only thing left to do. A few steps, a rhythm, on the sound of horrors.

And the sound never stopped. Revolving lights transforming the walls of the city in gloomy paintings, the sound of police cars replacing the one from bullets, trucks hurtling and deafening remaining passers-by. Windows opening timidly, trying to see what is going on, to hear a last sound. The TV keeps going, the horror, war, death, like a fucking chorus that we will remember. It is the war of sounds, of screams echoing in this street, near République.

It is in such a moment, so unique, so terrible, that we feel a swing.

Our lives getting transformed, which will continue probably far away from here, when we will tell ourselves we have nothing left to do. “Shall we leave?”, messages are falling and networks are getting clogged up. We close the windows to get away from the way too noisy street, from the steeped in sounds that will play again for ever. We want to close our eyes. We want to wake up.

— Mehdi Meklat and Badroudine Said Abdallah in Le bruit des balles


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