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North Berwick Man’s Book Charts His Journey From Algeria to Scotland

A NORTH Berwick resident has published the memoir of his three ‘exiles’, from life as a child in war-torn Algiers to his student years in Paris, then to England, and finally, in his 70s, to the shores of the Firth of Forth.

To This Northern Shore: Pieces Of A Life From South To North describes the tumultuous life and travels of self-described “lapsed Frenchman” Jean-Luc Barbanneau, who revealed it was the North Berwick beaches that inspired him to put pen to paper and record his often-fraught upbringing.

He said: “My wife has strong links with Haddington, where several family members are buried, so moving to East Lothian felt in some ways like the closing of a circle.”

Jean-Luc was born and raised in Algiers during the Algerian war of independence; he and his family were forced to leave after decolonisation, when, carrying only two suitcases each, they fled to Bordeaux in France.

After spending his student years in Paris during the youth-led rebellion of 1968, Jean-Luc moved to the UK, working in Brighton, London and Oxford in the book industry.

It was only after retiring to St Andrew Street in North Berwick in 2021 that Jean-Luc found the space to reflect on his past.

He said at the book’s launch in Lockett Bros: “I finally found inspiration to write this book walking along the shores of the Firth of Forth.

“It’s a place that encourages you, allows you, to contemplate and reflect because of the beauty of the scenery, the splendour of the environment.

“Being here and being able to walk by the seashore helped me come to the point where I could write the book.”

The collection of short, often-humorous pieces from Jean-Luc’s past is not, he insisted, a “misery memoir”.

He said: “The book is a way of putting down the burden, the weight, of a childhood in Algiers at a time of an urban war that has left a mark; and losing one’s place of birth; and the ensuing trials and visions of exile and migration.

“But I mustn’t give the impression that this is a misery memoir.

“It’s also given me a chance to open up the treasure chest and bring out the best bits, the interesting and hopefully entertaining stories of the good times.

“After the bitter disappointment of Brexit and what has followed, it was a relief to find oneself in a much more congenial environment, where there is still a greater sense of society.

“I know Scotland is a very old country but it feels to me like a nation looking to its future with the ambition and vigour of youth – which for me, of course, means it’s a good place to grow old in.”

To This Northern Shore: Pieces Of A Life From South To North, by Jean-Luc Barbanneau, is published by Voices, an imprint of Lexus Books. It is out now at £12.99.

Source: eastlothiancourier