Monday, April 05, 2010


I joined the Crime Fiction Alphabet meme which has been hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise at the letter C, therefore although we are coming to the end of this meme I will go back and add letters A and B after we have finished next week.

Yasmina Khadra, and the book is Dead Man's Share.

Algeria 1988.
Superintendent Brahim Llob is shaken from a period of bored inactivity by two major problems.
Professor Allouche an eminient psychoanalyst, an educated man in a 'revolutionary country where charisma swears enmity to talent' warns Llob that a psychopathic killer only known as SNP [sans nom patronymique] is to be released on a Presidential pardon.
Meanwhile his Lieutenant Lino is smitten by a young beauty Nedjma, who unfortunately has a previous lover the influential and wealthy Haj Thobane, a zaim [a Turkish chief heading a mounted militia, a leader].
When Nedjma goes back to the zaim, a heartbroken Lino goes on a drinking binge, and someone attempts to murder Haj Thobane killing his driver by mistake. Cartridges with Lino's fingerprints are left at the scene and Lino is arrested and thrown into the terrible dungeons of the secret police.
The psychopath SNP is shot dead allegedly attempting to kill Haj Thobane. In order to help Lino and uncover the motive that SNP had for his murder attempt on Haj Thobane, Llob travels to Sidi Ba, a dump trapped among the saw-toothed mountains between Algiers and Medea to uncover past history.

; the town is proof that men have reached the peak of their genius and, and having run out of ideas, are embarking on the human adventure in reverse, which is to say backwards to the Stone age, with an enthusiasm equal to the first cave-dwellers.

He is encouraged and accompanied on this task by the beautiful historian/ journalist Soria Karadach, who has a list of witnesses to some of the past horrors committed during the war of independence. Witnesses are murdered, and the bodies begin to pile up as they learn more about that terrible conflict, as the book moves towards a bleak conclusion.

"They've left us with nothing, those rich shits, nothing, not a crumb, not an illusion. They've stolen history, our opportunities, our ambitions, our dreams, even our innocence."

Yasmina Khadra is the pseudonym of Mohammed Moulessehoul, a former high ranking officer in the Algerian army, who went into exile in France in 2000.
Dead Man's Share is a brilliantly written book, whose translation from the French by Aubrey Botsford has retained the sharp acerbic wit and humour in the dialogue and the blistering anger in the narrative. Yasmina has a wonderful grasp of language and paints word portraits of people, events and a corrupt country in sharp brisk sentences. From his earlier book Double Blank one line that is particularly apt:

Our country needs neither prophets, nor a president. It needs an exorcist.

Dead Man's Share is a complicated story told in a first person narrative by Llob, a dedicated family man and honest cop, who loves his country but not the people who run things.
Algeria's War of Liberation is also an extremely complex subject as the reader learns about the treatment handed out to the harkis and their families during the brutal war of liberation. [Harkis: Muslim Algerians who served as auxiliaries with the French army during the Algerian War (1954-1962)]. There were terrible atrocities committed on both sides during those years, that still have repercussions in French and Algerian life today.
There is a sad irony in that shortly after the events portrayed in this book one of the most appalling civil wars in the history of the Mediterranean basin broke out in Algeria between the regime and Islamic fundamentalists.

They stand up straight every morning, insults to the memory of the Departed: every evening, they lie down like dogs on the mattress of their promises.

Dead Man's Share will be my first African contribution to Dorte's 2010 Global Reading Challenge.

My previous posts about Yasmina Khadra here and here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norman - Thanks, as always, for this contribution. You always find the most interesting novels and authors. Many people don't know much about the Algerian War; I'm one of them. I always enjoy learning about new (for me) aspects of history, so this one sounds particularly interesting.

6:45 AM  
Blogger Maxine Clarke said...

Wow, it sounds very exciting. I must take a closer look at this, Norman - I agree with Margot it does seem fascinating. I have read a couple of books in which this war is in the background, but not any in which it takes central place. Very interesting pseudonym I thought.

9:47 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Margot and Maxine. When people say one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter I always think about those revolutions where the freedom fighters have then fought for the spoils among themselves. The ordinary people merely exchanged one set of masters for another and their lives changed little.
The author Mohammed Moulessehoul is said to live in seclusion in France which usually means he has not been forgiven by those in power for telling how it is.

10:14 AM  

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