But not in such a way that you would call this a “war story”. There are “old men wearing slivers of ribbons to mark this or that war” and there are “cities whose names have been swept off the map. Breslau 1884. Dantzig 1897. St. Petersburg 1901.”
But these are ways of marking absences, ways of sequestering space for trauma which has been set aside (if not forgotten). Like Gabriel’s escape. “Gabriel’s escape from annihilation in two real wars (even though one had been called something else) had left him with reverence for unknown forces.” Which leaves him not stunned by the known which happened but grateful for the unknown which did not.
In the meantime, while unreal wars are happening in Algeria, unreal wars are happening on movie sets too. Gabriel’s friend Dieter has made a career of acting in military roles in the films. He jokes about his plans to retire once he is made a general (once he is cast in the role of one, as an actor). Dieter figures “the French would be bored with entertainment based on the Occupation by about 1982”.
But this is an old joke. By the time readers slip past 1982, it’s clear that the interest in the war persists. Dieter is still employed as a soldier/actor and Gabriel is still without a pension for his service in Algeria, still alone and disconnected, still trying to assemble a life.
The next passage, quoted below, is a long one, but it’s worth the time.