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.
The book is about a 27 yo woman, from Merouana (why?) whose father and brother are killed at the end of the black decade and who becomes a singer and dresses in black. A Lebanese man in his fifties becomes infatuated with her, blah blah blah. And after two years and 300 pages, the telenovela-like story ends as she parts from him and the black dress he liked.
The major issue I take with this novel is that I don’t see its purpose. Alright, an old, “experienced”, rich, famous yet fragile man tries to make a young, naïve and innocent young woman love him and then he finds out her innocence and all make her stronger than him. I wonder why it is always a man with a girl who could be his daughter in Mosteghanemi’s stories…
Then nothing. She of course mentions terrorism in Algeria, the war on Iraq, the Hama massacres but, as I felt it, just to say hey my novel addresses some serious stuff within its shallowness. There is no serious will from her to make her novel revolve around those serious matters. Then she adds up some clichés such as “the Arabs love their dictators even when they want to oust them”, “Algerians like tqar3ij”, etc.
She used some Syrian and Egyptian dialect which I couldn’t read easily and some Algerian dialect as well. The latter probably flatters the Algerian readership as do other sentences in the novel where she praises the Algerian nif, the Algerian woman or when she salutes the humble Algerian diplomat’s humanitarian work just after describing the ugliness of the Lebanese man’s arrogance.
As I said above, I am not supposed to write about books which I find boring but it seems I’ve been unlucky recently for I disliked all the books I read. I even bought a book named Le Noir Te Va Si Mal by Farid Benyoucef and I decided to not read it, at least for now, given that the story includes terrorists and plane hijacking at Algiers Airport. This way I wouldn’t be writing another negative review on this blog.
Anyway, if anyone sees the point in Mosteghanemi’s novel, please write a note.
PS: I laughed when I saw that the novel’s exclusive distributor in Algeria was named “Dar El3izza wel Karama“. Bouteflika must be happy🙂