Monday, January 08, 2007

A Temple-Khadra connection

I've just come across a December article from the Australian called What the writers read, in which authors as well as critics are asked to choose the best books they read in 2006. Peter Temple chose Kel Robertson's Dead Set, for example, and he also had this to say about Mike Davis's Planet of Slums: Davis' "brilliant synthesis of the works of dozens of scholars leads to a frightening prediction: a world of `feral, failed cities' in which the well-off live in fortified sanctuaries while helicopter gunships patrol the slums and extremist religions of all kinds are among the opiates of the wretched masses."

Recent headlines from Rio de Janeiro lend credence to that vision. But so does the work of a writer I've discussed here several times: Yasmina Khadra. Here's Algiers police Inspector Brahim Llob in Khadra's novel Morituri: "Once past a police barrier we cross a downtown neighborhood with the air of an Indian cemetery, bypass a part of Bab el Oued where the simple folk fornicate ardently to keep themselves warm, and climb the sinuous road which leads to the city heights. Without warning the hovels vanish and we burst upon a little Eden bedecked with opulent villas, Swiss chalets and hanging gardens ... `Hell! Just take a peek at those fortresses, Super.'"

Earlier in the novel, Llob "gaze(s) at the guru in the photo: twenty-eight years old. Never went to school. Never had work. Messianic peregrinations across Africa, preaching absolute virulence and an implacable hatred toward the entire world. And now here he was setting himself up as a righter of wrongs: thirty-four murders, two volumes of fatwa, a harem in every bush and a scepter in every finger."

One generally associates wretchedness of the kind Davis discusses with teeming Asian or sub-Saharan African cities, but it sounds as if Brahim Llob's Algiers is right up there. Or down there.

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter, thank you so much for your message "quel joli mot"...
Now, I'm reading "morituri"... it's funny to see hier the Khadra's words in english...
Sure, there is a mistake about the guru : in french, he crossed Asia instead of Africa !!!

Evanthia

January 08, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

You're welcome! I wonder which was Khadra's intention: Asia or Africa. Maybe he meant Africa, and his redacteur made a mistake. Or maybe he intended Afghanistan, so "Asia" was correct, but his English or American publisher thought this would confuse his readers. Or maybe he wrote Asia in French and Africa in English as a game, to see if readers would notice the difference.

January 08, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter, You mean that in Khadra's intention, it would have been such as a joke or a "jeu de piste" ? Why not, after all... but I would be surprised !
I am not sure that Khadra, during the Llob's times, can imagine that his readers can read in both languages...
why don't we ask him ??? (I'm joking)

Evanthia

January 09, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

The truth is that I have no idea. I don't think it was a joke or a jeu de piste. I am an editor by profession; maybe it was an editing mistake!

J'aime cette expression, jeu de piste!

January 09, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Peter,
"editor" is different from "publisher", I mean.

have a good day

January 15, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Editeur = publisher, redacteur = editor, n'est ce pas?

January 15, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Peter,
Editeur = publisher. that's ok (I'm working for music publishers)

Editor can have different translations in french regarding the "domain" : books, radio, newspapers...
An editor can be an "éditorialiste" for the newspapers
a "directeur" for a magazine
a "rédacteur"... etc...
French is not so "precise"...

Have a good afternoon
Evanthia

January 16, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Merci pour une nouvelle lecon. Le francais est evidemment plus exact que l'anglais quelquefois. (Je travail chez un journal comme sous-redacteur -- "copy editor" en anglais.)

Bonne nuit!

January 16, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Peter,
No, I've finished to read "Morituri" !
http://www.journalduneamazone.com/article-5351865.html

January 22, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Thank you for your note. It may take me some time to respond to your comment about Morituri. You are like Yasmina Khadra, in a way. Your style is beautiful, but it can be difficult for someone whose first language is not French!

January 29, 2007  

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