Arthur Assaraf considers the time-shifting identities of his father and grandmother who both developed Lewy body dementia, a condition which for meant they thought they were living at a different time in their lives.
While I sat there sipping flat, caffeine-free Coke, which she insisted was the only correct form of Coke, she would tell me many stories about her life. Most of them did not make any sense. She told me, for instance, that she had been born in Morocco. As far back as we knew our family had lived in North Africa. She would also say that at some point the family ‘came back’ to France. I could not understand how you could return to a place you had never lived in before. She would show me pictures of palaces and say, look, this is where I was born, we were rich then, then we were poor, then we were rich again, then we had to leave.
My grandmother was born in 1921 in Oujda, on the border between Morocco and Algeria, to a Jewish family. Her family had roamed that land as far back as we can tell. And when the French came, they opened their mouths for colonialism, ate it, digested it, and made their own. When she told me she ‘returned’ to France when she left her native Morocco in 1956, this was not a lie: in her mind she had lived in an imaginary France her whole life. It is possible to be both native and a colonizer.