Best Fiction on The Algerian War
For a long time, in France, we avoided discussing the Algerian War. In public life and at home, the subject was taboo. In the 1960s, one did not say “The Algerian War”; instead, one referred to it as “the events”, thereby depriving this struggle for independence of even having a name. But for the past dozen years or so, young and talented authors have written against this silence, returning to this painful past, with fundamentally different approaches. We have chosen for you our favorites among those that have been translated into English.
L’Art de Perdre
The silence that surrounds the Algerian War occupies a central place in The Art of Losing, the outstanding novel by Alice Zeniter that borrows its title from nothing less than the exceptional poem One by Elizabeth Bishop–the last two stanzas of which resonate particularly well with the fate of Ali and his family.
“the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.”
Along with this feeling of fear, this silence forms one of the principle guiding threads of this wondrous familial saga that retraces the history of three generations of Ali’s family–beginning with his story as a former soldier in World War One and how he came to possess a beautiful olive grove in the mountains of Kabylia. Read more.
The Art of Losing by Alice Zeniter, trans. by Frank Wynne, FSG / J’ai Lu
De nos frères blessés
In the same way that Our Riches sheds light on the remarkable Algerian literary figures that have been forcefully wiped away from Western history books, and similar to how The Art of Losing examines the almost entirely forgotten role of Harkis within Franco-Algerian relations, Tomorrow They Won’t Dare to Murder Us shares the story of someone who has been purposefully overlooked by history. Read more.
Tomorrow They Won’t Dare to Murder Us by Joseph Andras, trans. by Simon Leser, Verso / Babel
Our Riches, by Kaouther Adimi, describes the many lives and times of the great and sometimes forgotten publisher Edmond Charlot. For those who do not know his name (and I myself was among that number before reading the book), Edmond Charlot was the Syliva Beach of Algiers: he opened a bookstore called Les vraies richesses and spent a great deal of his life publishing new and under-appreciated authors. One of his first offerings to the world was the debut of none other than Albert Camus.
Our Riches by Kaouther Adimi, trans. by Chris Andrews, NDP / Seuil