Book Review: Les Enfant des Frontières


Two weeks ago I was at a conference about the “refugees crisis” in Europe. The talk was given by a geographer researcher specialised in migrations, one who could have been among the 19 who signed the contribution in Le Monde refuting Kamel Daoud’s article in the same newspaper. A “bien-pensant” intellectual as Daoud’s friends would have called her (cf. this article in El Watan and a reaction to it in Le Matin) or simplistically a jealous person as prodigy Daoud himself would have called her had she been Algerian.

So there were maps, statistics and graphs with some geopolitics putting things back in their context. It was very interesting and informative. People should get access to such information to, at least, try to avoid situations such as having some former refugees who do not want their new country to take in new ones. Especially when a “renowned” journalist and writer implies that the new refugees come with a cultural sickness which makes them prone to violence and “that the disease is spreading to their own lands.”

The same happens in Algeria with the sub-Saharan refugees who either stay in the South or move farther to the Northern cities (dying, for some, while crossing the Sahara). In Bejaia (and elsewhere), you can see them, men, women, children and babies turned into street beggars or very low-cost workers in construction/farming fields. They rely on the locals’ generosity and also suffer from their animosity (some in Algeria say they’d spread their diseases – yes, it’s the bell ringing that you hear.)

So I though I’d write a very short review of a beautiful book on the times when our people were themselves refugees, pushed out by the French occupier’s policies and seeking refuge in neighbouring Morocco and Tunisia if not farther. Continue reading

Book Review: Les Algériennes du château d’Amboise


Tomorrow we will celebrate the 61st anniversary of the Algerian Revolution. I used to dedicate a post to this occasion with a link to a song or a poem. This time will be different as I am taking this opportunity to finish this book review draft and post it.

The Algerian Revolution was the final step taken by the Algerian people towards their independence. All the armed and peaceful resistance actions taken since the French invasion in 1830 paved the way for the glorious War of Independence. The resistance movement led by Emir Abdekader was a major episode even though it ended with the prince surrendering to the French who imprisoned him and his followers in France instead of sending him to today’s Turkey, Syria, Egypt or KSA as was agreed between the Emir and the Duke of Aumale. And this is where Amel Chaouati’s book comes in.

Many books have been and are written on Emir Abdelkader but only a few speak of his 97 followers (including 21 women and 15 children and babies) and I don’t remember reading any which relate the story of the women amongst them during his detention period in France (three months in Toulon, four in Pau and four long years in Amboise). Chaouati tried to tackle this aspect.

I admit I was more sceptical when I bought the 1500 DZD worth book than when I started reading this one. I wondered what the author would have to say knowing the scarcity of historical sources. And I was right, there was little material to fill the 204 pages of the book except that the author chose a different perspective.

Continue reading

Book Review: The Dead Ass


Mise en page 1My previous book review was dedicated to the now International Star Kamel Daoud. It was almost a year ago and, back then, Daoud was a LQO newspaper chronicler known by a few Algerians. Eleven months later and after some TV appearances in France, a lost Goncourt, a threat by a Salafi clown and a Goncourt First Novel Prize, Daoud has become Algeria’s best author and specialist in all social, Islamic and political questions… abroad.

I still believe that Daoud wouldn’t have been acclaimed that much (in France) and certainly not awarded a penny had he not written something related to Albert Camus and had his political opinions been different. For his novel is boring most of the time just like his chronicles (you can disagree) which are also sad and depressing (you must agree). Today Daoud Continue reading

Book Review : Meursault, Counter Investigation


Daoud

I hesitated a lot before reading this book. I had been a reader of Kamel Daoud‘s chronicles (without quite agreeing with their content) before I stopped a few years ago as he grew gloomier than ever. But I checked them again a few times during the last presidential elections and I liked what I read. This added to the fact that I felt Camus‘s The Stranger needed an answer if not a sequel convinced me to make the move.

I read The Stranger many years ago and, like many, felt a void left by the missing details on the Arab man killed by Meursault. This void combined to Camus’s statements/stance during the Algerian war of independence led to the many polemics around Camus and his belonging (or not) to Algeria.

Continue reading

Book Review: Avec tes mains


Lhyza Libertad reviews a book she read and, I believe, liked. I had never heard of this author before so thanks Lhyza for letting us (me) know about him and for your contribution to Patriots on Fire.
As this is (only) the second guest-post we’ve got on the blog, I take this opportunity to remind our readers that the blog is open to all guest-posts on topics related in a way or another to Algeria.

Here is Lhyza’s text.

avec tes mainsIn August 2013 I went on a trip to France and my last stop was in Paris. You know this town, that people either love for its romanticism or hate for its rudeness. This town, which has thousands of streets filled with book shops. As a book lover I spent almost all my free time in these book shops if I was not meeting my friend Ingrid or watching a film with my hosts near Telegraphe in the 19ème. My hosts were really artistic and open-minded, they recommended me to go to the Arab World Institute to see an interesting exhibition there. Of course I followed their recommendation and went there. As in all museums or exhibition centres you have a book shop with various objects that they also sell, as souvenirs you know.

I am coming to the point. Be patient. Continue reading

Book Review: The Algerians of Bilad al-Sham


BouchamaSeveral Syrians came to Algeria these past years fleeing the war in their country. The few Syrians I used to meet were either teachers who came after Algeria’s independence and stayed or traders selling Syrian textile products. It was therefore unusual to see these men, women and children refugees begging at mosques’ gates. War has very sad and ugly consequences.

I wondered what happened to the Algerian community in Syria. Tourists and businessmen stopped going there but what about those living there, or even those Syrians of Algerian descent? How involved are they in the conflict? Did they take sides?
These are some questions I have and to which I found no answers. The press has reported about Khaldoun Mekki Elhassani, one of the Emir Abdelkader’s great sons, jailed by the Assad regime. And unlike what happened in Iraq, Bosnia or Chechnya, we didn’t hear of many Algerians who would be gone to fight in Syria.

Kamel Bouchama’s book attempts to answer other questions as to who these Syrians of Algerian descent were. Continue reading

Book Review: Black Suits You


TulipsMy 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

Book Review: Bleu Blanc Vert


BleuBlancVertMany 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

Book Review: A world without Islam


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

Book Review: A Dying Colonialism


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