The Lovers of Algeria by Annouar Benmalek

Translated by Joanna Kilmartin Nine-year-old Jallal is old enough to know that his life in Algeria is precarious at best -- friends are as likely to kill you as save you. Having run away from home, he lives by selling peanuts and single cigarettes on the street. The proposal by the elderly Swiss woman named Anna is shocking and preposterous: travel with her through war-ravaged lands, as a translator, so she can find her lost husband and pray over the graves of their murdered children. To Anna, however, the risk is no less than when they first met in Algeria during yet another time of unspeakable terror decades ago. As Anna and her lover, battered by time and memory, circle each other, Benmalek asks what of humanity endures in dangerously lawless times. The Lovers of Algeria is an unflinching novel that resonates powerfully in today's world. Reviews "The Lovers of Algeria [is] arguably the most important novel by an Arab author to have emerged from that country in the intervening 50 years. In France, where Benmalek's book has now sold more than 250,000 copies, the country is only just coming to terms with the extent of the human rights abuses perpetrated in Algeria by the military in the 1950s. [...] The Lovers of Algeria - which, in English, sounds too much like an opera and not enough like the original Les Amants Desunis - are a Swiss trapeze artist, Anna, and her husband, the Arab Nassreddine, whose marriage has been torn apart by the self-styled forces of Islam and nationalism. ... Following the massacre of the couple's twin children by FLN revolutionaries, who suspect Nassreddine of treachery, the narrative moves back and forth in time to fill in the story. Which, it emerges, is closely based on Anouar Benmalek's own extraordinary family history, right down to the pan-African tour by a Swiss circus. The son of a sociology professor, himself a lecturer in mathematics at Rennes, Benmalek writes at times didactically, at times filling in the history of his home country. On the whole, this is all to the good, since there is so much to be learnt about this vast land stretching from the shores of the Mediterranean to the depths of the Sahara, so much of which remains mysterious if not incomprehensible." Copyright, UK Independent. All rights Reserved

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