My objective behind the Book Reviews section is to write about the books I liked and/or which deal with some “interesting/useful” topic; and so far I’ve been successful in doing so. The previous book I reviewed was a disappointment but at least it allowed me to highlight one or two aspects about Algerian writers.
Black Suits You by Ahlam Mosteghanemi was beyond disappointment. The only good thing about it is that it can be read quickly, especially when you do like me and read only half the words starting from page 200.
I’ve read most of Ahlam’s novels, actually all but Nissian.com. I liked Memory in the Flesh more than Chaos of the Senses and Passer-by a Bed. She’s a good writer and I like her style but her novels are all the same. So I was aware that I was going to read just another variant of Mosteghanemi’s work when I bought Black Suits You, but I didn’t expect the boredom I experienced while reading it. Continue reading →
Many Algerian writers, too many of them in my opinion, concentrate in their writings on two specific periods: the colonisation/war of independence and the nineties, the black decade.
And I got fed up with them. This is why I was glad when I found Maissa Bey‘s novel “Blue White Green“. The novel relates a story which takes place between 1962 and 1992.
I actually don’t know what to think of it. I rarely appreciate novels written by Algerian (but not only) female writers. Whenever I read one I get the feeling it’s written by a woman for a feminine readership, unlike novels written by men which are suitable for both genders.
Anyway, the novel is written in the same style as “Voices“. Maissa Bey uses her two main characters, Lilas and Ali, to narrate the story. Each their turn. It starts in 1962 with a girl and a boy and evolves with them as they grow up, love each other, get married, have their child, and ends in 1992. Continue reading →
Meeting with a book has sometimes to do with luck. Sometimes it is because you are at the airport with some foreign currency which you couldn’t spend even after you visited the restaurant, the café and the duty-free shops. And then you spot a book with a catchy title and the right price to empty your wallet. So you buy it and read it during the 12 hours-long flight. Then you decide to write a review because you have nothing more interesting to write about.
This is what happened to me and this book.
Well, not exactly. I decided to write this post because the book’s topic is essential in our present days where so many wars are said to be launched against Islam-ist groups and threat.
In “A world without Islam“, Graham Fueller tries to picture a world where Islam wouldn’t have existed and considers the current trends to find out whether they would have been different or not. Would there still be a war on terror, a clash of civilisations, hatred towards the US, etc. Continue reading →
Professor Pierre Chaulet passed away last Friday. He was one of those French men and women who sided with the FLN during the Algerian war. I do usually take my time before writing about a recent event and this is why I am not going to write about this valuable Algerian man. The reader can browse the internet (Algerian news websites and blogs) to find some good tributes.
Instead, I will write a few words on Frantz Fanon‘s book “A dying colonialism“. Note that I didn’t write about the author last year for the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of this death. Some good articles have been written last year and the reader could easily find them on-line.
Frantz Fanon was another Frenchman who defended the Algerian cause and sided with the FLN. And it was Pierre Chaulet who introduced him to the revolutionary party in 1955. Unfortunately, he died a few months before the ceasefire was declared. Continue reading →
Unwritten languages face many threats. They could of course disappear, and when they have people trying to save them, as it is the case with Kabyle, they still face the threat of losing all or part of the cultural patrimony they carry.
Some Kabyles nowadays speak in French or Algerian dardja, and many do speak Kabyle but mixed with so many Arabic or French words that you wouldn’t recognise it. Several Kabyle words are therefore not used any more.
But it is not just words that disappear. Poems and proverbs tend to be forgotten as well. A great-aunt of mine, aged 103, lost her 16 yo and 18 yo sons who died as martyrs in the early days of the Algerian Revolution. I think she never recovered from her loss and she used to sing many poems dedicated to them and to the war in general. Unfortunately nobody did learn or record them, and they will probably disappear the time she will leave us. Continue reading →
Five days ago, Palestinians and those among us who are concerned about the Palestinian cause remembered Deir Yassin’s massacres. It was a good reminder to those, centred on what’s happening in Syria or Mali, who didn’t notice the recent escalation in Gaza. But what to do, it is not easy to keep the press’ interest in a 64 yo conflict which became the normality.
The author was studying in Cairo during the 1967 war and since that day Israel didn’t let him go back home. He had also to leave Egypt and his wife and little boy (poet Tamim Barghouti), expelled by Sadat in 1977 after the president’s visit to Israel which announced Camp David. Many Palestinians could go back live or visit Ramallah and Gaza after Oslo (probably the only positive outcome of these accords), and Barghouti relates his own “return” in 1997, 30 years after he had left his mother land. Continue reading →
As I have already written about a Ukrainian author I thought why not an Egyptian one. Sulaiman Fayyadh‘s Voices(أصوات) which I read in Arabic is one of those short novels which you read in one go and which opens up several topics.
An Egyptian man, Hamed, who left his village at the age of 10 and became rich in Paris, decided to go back home 30 years later for a short visit. And he took his French wife Simone with him. Fayyadh uses the voices of many of the story characters (Hamed, his mother, his brother, his brother’s wife, a young high school student, the mayor and the police officer) to relate the events that happened before and during the visit. Each giving a different perspective and completing the story.
Voices ends in an unexpected way with Simone‘s death by the hands of the village’s women. إن كيدهن عظيم :) And as I don’t want to entirely spoil the story, I won’t tell you how the woman died despite the fact this was one of the major points Fayyadh wanted to address. Click here [ar] if you want to know more.
Besides its end, the story deals with topics, which have been and are still being treated in novels, articles and movies, related to the East/West relationship and what some would call the clash (or dialogue) of civilisations. Continue reading →
First of all I have to apologise for the misleading title. I am not going to talk about Ukrainian author Andrey Kurkov nor am I going to review one of his books.
I am fascinated by Eastern Europe, I’ve visited all those countries except the ones that really matter to me (Russia and Ukraine). Instead I do read their authors’ novels which probably come 2nd in my reading list right behind Algerian ones.
Kurkov is one of my favourites. I feel I know many of Kiev’s streets just because of the description he made in his novels. But I do not like Kurkov only because of his writing style and his black humour. I do love his novels because they remind me of my own country, Algeria. Continue reading →
The topic Fatema Bakhai treats in Izuran (Roots) is not common in Algerian literature. She decided to revisit Algerians’ history from the beginning Neolithic to the fall of the Regency of Algiers through a historical fiction. This novel can therefore be read in conjunction with late Algerian historian Mahfoud Kaddache‘s excellent “Algerians’ Algeria“.
The book comes in three volumes (and the author said there wouldn’t be a fourth), and I’ve only read the first one “Izuran, in the country of the free men” which ends at the fall of Carthage in hands of the Muslims but I cannot wait to read the other two.
Fatema Bakhai, in a very good storyteller style, chose to go through this time period by relating the stories of the members of the same family through several generations. So we get to know very interesting, smart, courageous people such as Red Hair, Black Curls, Ayye, Amestan, Tirman, Tiziri, Amadeus ending up with Amzagh.
I started this post almost a year ago and then forgot about it, and I remembered it only these days after reading the discussion that is going on here mainly between Oumelkheir and QatKhal. It is not 100% related but never mind, I just used it as an excuse to finish the post (write the last three lines) and publish it.
The sword and the cross
The relationship between religion and politics has always been very tight, and religious men have used politics as much as politicians have used religion to settle their power. Politicians do indeed need an ideology to support them and, while some have used “non-spiritual” ideologies such as secularism or communism, many others used existing religions or even created new ones to back-up their political systems.
Religion was also used to justify wars and gather and motivate the soldiers. Regardless of their real background, many wars were waged with mixed temporal and spiritual aspects.
I used the past tense here but I could have used present and my assertions would have remained as correct. And today as yesterday, religion is a central point in every conflict (armed or not), especially when a Muslim entity is involved.
Algeria’s recent history gives us many examples where conflicts were backed-up by different religions. Continue reading →