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Book review: Risky if strangeness in the Alice Zeniters the Art of losing

”There is no family which does not constitute the location of a civilisationskonflikt”, quote Alice Zeniter sociologist Pierre Bourdieu in the beginning of the second part of his novel ”the Art of losing”. The quote might just as well have been able to stand as a motto for the whole novel. ”The art of losing” is a story about an algerian immigrantfamilj in three generations from the 1950's bloody civil war to today's Paris, of an evil inheritance from the colonial era which no one in the family knows how to free himself from the or even come to terms with.

his Grandfather, Ali, is of berbersläkt: a poor olive growers as a day manage to get hold of an olive press in a flooded river. With this literal gift from above, he manages to create a certain prosperity in the village in the Kabylia where the family lives. But with the prosperity of rivalry. In order to protect family and property is forced Ali to make an appeal for help from the French who, despite the fact that they are widely hated, yet promise protection against the guerrillas FLN already found a safe haven in the mountains.

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Ali's fate is sealed. He is a harki, a muslim who represents the French colonial power obedient tool in the fight against the insurgents. These harkis are also the first targets when gerillaattackerna turns into all-out civil war, and Ali and his family realize that they have no other choice, if they want to survive, than to emigrate.

But the French motherland that Ali faithfully albeit reluctantly earned over the years (he was also in the French army during the second world war) now wants to not know of him. The algerian refugees pushed together like cattle in the camps, which are said to be temporary but lasts for years, and are then brought to the newly built skogshuggarsamhällen. Displaced from their old homeland, but without belonging in their new, spends a kind of non-existence in the outskirts of French society, regarded as a pariah not just by the French but by other algerians who see them as traitors.

”the Art of losing”, Zeniters third novel, attracted attention when it was published in France and was awarded the 2017 with the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens, the alternative Goncourtpris whose candidates are nominated by the young readers.

As a reader, you get the not always pleasant feeling of the novel is steeped and shaped for contemporary political idea and debate

such a jury may have reasoned. The novel shows from one of the youngest family members ' point of view. Although she is the granddaughter of immigrant algerians have Naima no natural contact with either Algeria or the muslim culture. Yet, she experiences an alienation which she attributes than the French xenophobia, than the parental consistent silent about his past. Because Naima greatly confused about his background presented a novel instead of a fictitious but strikingly non-anonymous berättarjag as one might suspect, is Naima itself, but that it is said straight out. Unlike Naima, this is the ”I” freely inside and outside the story, fills in and explains the things that a modern reader can't be expected to know or understand.

It is a risky romanstrategi. The simple won't have to grope in uncertainty, but at the same time takes self standing kulissviskningar any of the story's immediacy. As a reader, you will also receive it is not always a pleasant feeling of the novel is steeped and shaped for contemporary political ideas and debate. It is perhaps educational gratefully to describe the algerian civil war as a race war, where the white colonial masters against the ”svartskallar” (arabs or berbers), a fight which then continues (with other funds) in France today. But the FLN-the guerrillas were primarily marxist anstrukna militant nationalists for whom it was just as important, if not more important, to take power from the ruling elite in the country to liberate the people from colonial oppression.

the Best is the novel when the narrator refrains from prompter and let the story be carried by its own momentum. There are scenes from the family kabyliska home village that entrenched, then the retaliation can come from both the French militia from the FLN guerrillas. Both parties offer their protection, but in fact there is no protection to get to from any direction. Vulnerability to ordinary farmers is total.

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it is the description of the loss, which gave the book its title that convinces, a loss not only of land and property, but also (since self-esteem is so strongly associated with the earth) of human dignity. It is given a powerful expression in a vision his grandfather then he is finally taken on board the French vessel that shall bring the family ”in safety” from Algiers to Marseille:

”the Boat backs slowly out of the harbor. Then, see Ali a remarkable picture in front of him: a rope attached to the huge boat in one end and at the coast in the other, pull slowly but inexorably, with the whole country out in the sea: first the cathedral and the Kasban, the main post office and the Botanical garden, then the fields in the hinterland. [...] The university of Biskra, Ghabardia and Timimoun follow and then runs the desert sand the bottom of the open wound after the ferry as it moves away. The whole of the Sahara will disappear barley for grain in the Mediterranean.”

half A century later, Ali's granddaughter, Naima among the family's possessions, a map where all the countries are clearly marked with colour codes and names, except Algeria which is only marked by a large ' spent hole. It is shameful tigandets counterpart in the geography. A country you can never return to, but as a man, therefore, never able to leave.

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