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Description - The Lovers of Algeria by Anouar Benmalek

A Swiss woman, Anna, walks the paths of a cemetery in present-day Algiers. She is searching for two names, those of her children, murdered more than 40 years previously by the FLN, the organization that fought for Algerian independence from the French in the early 1960s and whose leaders were convinced that the children's father, Nassreddine, was a traitor to their cause. Anna has returned to an Algeria rife with terrorism and the excesses of fundamentalism. "The devil has entered our country, and his footprints are everywhere," her friend Majid tells her as she sets out, undaunted, disguised in Muslim dress, on a perilous quest to find out whether the man she once loved is still alive. She is guided through the harsh and beautiful landscape by Jallal, a boy who sells peanuts in the Place des Martyrs. Captured by the militant "forces of Allah", the woman and boy must witness and endure all manner of brutality and degradation before Anna's and Nassreddine's destinies can finally converge. Anouar Benmalek's courageous novel confronts the tragedy of Algeria, its immediate past and present, as no other writer has done since Albert Camus, and in the process he tells a love story of immense tenderness.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9781860468681
ISBN-10: 1860468683
Format: Hardback
(242mm x 165mm x 27mm)
Pages: 320
Imprint: The Harvill Press
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 18-Oct-2001
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions - The Lovers of Algeria by Anouar Benmalek

Book Reviews - The Lovers of Algeria by Anouar Benmalek

UK Kirkus Review » Anna, a 75-year-old Swiss woman, returns to Algiers, a city she knew in her youth; now, as then, it is in the grip of brutality, oppression and fear. She is searching for the graves of her two children, murdered there 40 years before, and for her husband, their father, lost to her at the same time but perhaps still alive. It is a sorrowful quest, surely doomed to disappointment in a city fraught with danger and distrust, where simply being European and asking questions is enough to get you killed. But Nasreddine, her husband, is still alive, and quiet forces of love and friendship are at work, despite the bitterness raging on all sides. Benmalek's novel is an unrelenting portrait of a country torn by decades of corruption and strife, from the independence struggles in the 1940s and '50s to the troubles of the present day. It is a place where poverty and deceit are commonplace and the brutalized become brutalizers - a nightmare world where life is at its very cheapest and death is dispensed indiscriminately to the guilty and the innocent by terrorist and government alike. This is a tale of fortitude rather than courage, determination rather than ambition, and above all of the strange and evocative power of love. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » An interracial love story set against the harshness of Algerian colonial and civil wars. After her father allowed her mother to be deported from Switzerland to Germany, Anna leaves home to join the circus, a peripatetic existence leading her to Algiers. There, penniless and bewildered, she leaves the troupe to help a jailed Jewish friend and is caught up in the horrors of colonialism, American wartime liberation, and racism. She also meets the equally penurious Nassreddine, a sweet Chaoui who has experienced injustices himself. With the backdrop of war, the sexually inexperienced pair develops a highly charged erotic relationship, until Nassreddine is arrested for dealing in stolen goods and spends three years in the army in Europe. Back in Africa, he tracks Anna to Madagascar, where for five years they live on a farm and have twins and he remains eager to return to his homeland. French troops arrest, interrogate and torture him during the Algerian war of independence, freedom fighters blame his giving of information for French army massacres and kill his children, and Anna disappears while he is in jail. Forty years later, Anna resurfaces in Algiers, looking for Nassreddine. The civil war rages. She sends a telegram to Nassreddine's village and then heads off to find him, with a nine-year-old orphaned peanut-seller as guide. Rebels kidnap and brutalize them, until they escape during an army bombing of rebel positions. Finally, Nassreddine and Anna are reunited and they, along with the boy, head to the southern desert regions, still much in love. Despite the human kindness of a few minor characters, however, the story's lingering images are the bestial bloodthirstiness and sexual predation of French and Algerian men, the inhuman victimization of the Algerian people, and the seeming futility of any solution. Not groundbreaking, and sometimes overly melodramatic, but, still, a solid, engaging, and agonizingly brutal piece of work. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Anouar Benmalek

Anouar Benmalek was born in Casablanca in 1956 and lives now in France. After the 1988 riots in Algeria in protest at government policies, he became one of the founders of the Algerian Committee against Torture. The Lovers of Algeria was awarded the prestigious Prix Rachid. Benmalek's most recent novel, The Child of an Ancient People (published by Vintage in 2004) won the Prix R.F.O. du Livre.

Books By Anouar Benmalek

Child of an Ancient People by Anouar Benmalek
Paperback, November 2004
Lovers of Algeria by Anouar Benmalek
Paperback, September 2004