From Publishers Weekly
A young contemporary singer is caught in the political crossfire when a repressive Islamic regime seizes power in Algeria in Chouaki's first novel to be translated into English. Moussa Massy is the stage name of the talented first-person narrator, who dreams of stardom, his music a blend of Islamic melodies, African traditions and American pop influences. Moussa's dream comes true when his band begins climbing the local club ladder, and one of his songs hits the local charts and begins getting radio airplay. But darkly parallel to Moussa's rise is the ascent of the FIS, a Taliban-like Muslim party that uses brutality to enforce religious conformity. The effects are instantly deadly to Moussa's ambitions, as the thriving local club scene goes sour and the singer's creative friends scramble to get visas and leave the country. Chouaki's staccato, rapid-fire prose style works perfectly in the scenes designed to convey Moussa's frustration as his musical career stalls, his girlfriend leaves him for an arranged marriage and he struggles desperately to emigrate to France. But that same style seems too brisk in the final chapters as Chouaki sprints through Moussa's descent into drugs and alcohol and reveals his shocking final fate. Still, the novel's gripping narrative and political relevance make this a revelatory read.
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Chouaki, an Algerian now living in Paris, has crafted an alter ego who becomes inextricably trapped in the political miasma of Algiers in the 1990s. Moussa Massy is a young man frustrated at his inability to make it on his own--he still lives in a three-room apartment with 13 other family members. He finally gains some recognition as a singer of traditional Kabyle music with a Michael Jackson twist, but his career is quickly stifled by increasingly powerful Islamic fundamentalists. The country becomes "one huge pile of rubbish sitting on top of a powder keg," in a friend's words. When the explosion finally occurs, all his friends leave for France, Canada, Morocco, wherever they can get a visa. But Moussa is stuck, and slowly goes mad. Gripped by depression and drugs, he loses touch with what is going on around him. Chouaki's use of clipped dialogue and disjointed sentences perfectly matches Moussa's frantic attempt to escape the tightening clutches of Fundamentalism, deeply involving the reader in his doomed struggle. Deborah DonovanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved