This article examines some of the historical, social and political oppositions to cross-cultural love in novels written by Assia Djebar and Anouar Benmalek. Franco-Algerian couples in Les amants désunis and Les nuits de Strasbourg are seemingly unable to love each other in the in-between territory that separates their national and cultural identities. Their love encounters end, for the most part, in separation, violence or death. The violence of the past is ever-present in these cross-cultural relationships, threatening to resurface and disrupt love, while the historic victims of this violence make claims on the lovers’ loyalties. Benmalek asserts an ethics of compassion that functions to transform enemies into friends or lovers. While language difference is revealed in these novels to be a site of separation, it is language that provides the means of reconciliation and loving proximity between historical enemies.