Saturday, April 20, 2013

Algeria in the '50 and the '90s: Yasmina Khadra and Alistair Horne

I'm still burrowing into the complicated history of France and Algeria in the mid-twentieth century via Alistair Horne's A Savage War of Peace,  In the meantime, here's an old post about an Algerian crime novel that paints a grim picture of the country a few decades after the events Horne recounts.
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Yasmina Khadra's novels about an Algiers police inspector named Brahim Llob owe much to the tradition of the alienated detective, but Khadra's wit is more bitter than is usual for that wisecracking tradition, and his target is his own country. Thus the opening pages of Dead Man's Share offer this:

"I try to catch the wall doing something wrong so I can investigate it."
but also
"We Algerians react only to what happens to us, never to forestall something that might happen to us.
"While waiting for the storm, we carry on with our rituals. Our patron saints take good care of us, our garbage cans are overflowing with food, and the planet's impending economic crisis is as distant as a comet—to us."
The novel's opening pages are full of bitter reflections on what Algeria does to its thinkers, how it consumes people of talent, how its leaders want to keep the people dumb. There may be a touch of autobiography to such passages; "Yasmina Khadra" is a pen name that the author, whose real name is Mohammed Moulessehoul, adopted to avoid censorship when serving as an Algerian army officer. He now lives and writes in France.
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Dead Man's Share, published in French in 2004 as La part du mort and translated in 2009, is the fourth Brahim Llob novel. Khadra's comprehensive Web site (in French) includes excerpts, summaries, news, interviews, and the author's explanation of why he writes in French rather than Arabic.

A 2007 article surveys Khadra's work, including the Llob novels and non-series books that constitute a travelogue the Muslim world's miseries and agonies (The Attack, The Swallows of Kabul, The Sirens of Baghdad). And here are previous Detectives Beyond Borders posts about Khadra (click the link, then scroll down.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2012, 2013

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3 Comments:

Blogger John Gaynard said...

Good post about Khadra. He's one of my favourite crime writers, and deserves to be a lot wider known, as does another Algerian writer: Boualemn Sansal.

August 05, 2012  
Blogger John Gaynard said...

Sorry for the typo. That should read: Boualem Sansal.

August 05, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The German Mujahid is on my reading list, especially after this disgusting little act of cowardice and capitulation by Arab diplomats.

August 05, 2012  

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