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The Last Summer of Reason Paperback – September 1, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
A bookseller battles the bizarre restrictions of a totalitarian regime in this final novel by Djaout, an Algerian novelist, poet and journalist who wrote the book just before being assassinated by Islamic fundamentalists in 1993. Bousalem Yekker is the haunted, introverted protagonist, a 50-ish woodworker who also runs a bookstore in a culture being stripped of artistic expression by a conservative group known as the Vigilant Brothers, who believe that such expression should be subjugated to the worship of God. Djaout provides precious little elaboration on how the group took over, and even less on why the youthful supporters of the movement would buy into the drab, colorless world the party's vision endorses. Most of the book consists of chapters in which Yekker finds himself increasingly boxed in by government repression. Once he realizes he is basically powerless to fight their efforts, he begins to look back on the more romantic aspects of his own past with an odd mixture of bitterness and nostalgia. Djaout's writing displays an excellent flair for poetic description, but the threadbare plot doesn't provide much to differentiate this novel from other titles in which heroic protagonists battle repressive regimes. The concept of a culture in which art, beauty and expression are totally repressed is an interesting notion that allows this book to work to some extent as a cultural parable, but the underdevelopment of the plot prevents Djaout from getting beneath the surface of the compelling issues he tries to examine. (Oct.)Forecast: While this book will be easy to promote Djaout's tragic history should prompt review coverage it may be more difficult to sell, though a striking jacket photo of a book in flames and a foreword by Wole Soyinka should help distinguish it from similar efforts.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Boualem Yekker is a bookseller who refuses to abandon his liberal political beliefs despite pressure from the totalitarian government. His wife and children abandon him and accept the political and religious rhetoric of the nation's new leaders. Yekker is left to his memories of the way of life he has lost and of the last summer of reason, the last season in which people tried to fight the oppression of the emerging government. Yekker is a truly literary hero, openly disagreeing with the treatment of women and intellectuals in his country and never abandoning his belief in the power of books to restore sanity to a nation driven mad with self-righteousness. His creator Djaout's own defiance was silenced when Islamic extremists in his country, Algeria, assassinated him in 1993. "His opinion of life was too high for him to make do with its shadow," Djaout writes of his protagonist. That is a fitting epitaph for a brave author who believed in the power of words to conquer the hate that grows out of fear. John Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Almost plotless, the book reveals the thoughts and feelings of Boualem Yekker, a lonely man who finds himself living "a blank life" in a society which has been subsumed by the Regulators of Faith, zealots who worship a god of vengeance and punishment and do not recognize love, forgiveness, or compassion. Several far more compelling, but unwritten, stories parallel this plot, however. First is the powerful story which the reader cannot help but conjure of the author's own travails as a writer trying to find an outlet for his creativity within a similar society, and his eventual assassination. Equally compelling is the interior story the reader cannot help but create, and which I believe the author expected his reader to create, of what his own life would be like under similar circumstances.
Poetic and thoughtful, Djaout makes the world of a fanatical theocracy come alive, a world which many readers, like myself, could read about but not even begin to understand in the days after September 11. By allowing us to share the thoughts of a man whose "opinion of life was too high for him to make do with its shadow, its wrapping, and its peelings," we are granted entrée into such a world. Perhaps this is Djaout's greatest and most heartfelt gift to a public which did not listen in time to save his life. This is a stunning book from which only the most jaded reader will emerge unmoved and unchanged. Mary Whipple
Algeria is a country that was almost besieged by fundamentalism, and the fundamentalist leaders had targeted anything that they personally perceived as being a threat to their own brand of religion. Thar Djaout wrote this small novel as a reflection of his own experiences in that country, which he was assassinated for his writings and viewpoints.
The book outlines the terror that besieged Algeria in the past, and outlines the horror that the leaders of the fundamentalist leaders had done to that country during the civil war. It involves a character named Boualem Yekker who refuses to give up his views for the sake of protecting himself from harm. As you read this book, you will see that soon it becomes clear that one extremist becomes much like the other, until they all become one face and the character of the very people that surround Tahar Djaout become one faceless mass. This book is more about Tahar Djaout and his experiences in this horror, than about Boualem Yekker, the character he uses to convey the story.
For Tahar Djaout , as for the character outlined in this novel we would hope for a happy ending. US troops bomb the extremists and help reestablish a more reasonable regime. Something like what we would read in today's headlines. Possibly Tahar Djaout would go into exile, and write more poetry, and his words ring out as a voice of reason against a growing tide of hatred in his country. Perhaps it would all go back to the way it was. But it was never to be again. The last sentence Tahar Djaout wrote before he was assassinated by extremists in his country was "will there be another spring?"
Read this to find out what the world can lose without its poetry and poets. Tahar Djaout was a great, humanitarian, poet, and author who was snuffed out by those that were bent on destroying anything that was opposite to them. This novel is a reflection of his life, and a reflection of what those who hate freedom would like to see for all of us.
Second, this book provides important insight to the other side of the battle against extremism. Few understand or even think about the places in the world where extremism has taken hold and what that means to the people and the culture of that country. Djaout's novel walks the reader through the emotions of uncertainty, questioning, anger, and fear.
The Last Summer of Reason provides a larger scope for the conflict between the world and extremists. The Western culture is not the only culture under attack - other cultures have been smothered under, where extremism has taken hold. If books are carriers of civilizations, then Tahar Djauout's novel carries the Western reader to a civilization struggling survive and to the other side of the conflict.
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