Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
The Lovers of Algeria: A Novel (Lannan Translation Selection (Graywolf Paperback)) Paperback – August 1, 2004
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
From Publishers Weekly
This captivating novel set in late 20th-century Algeria entwines the country's tumultuous politics with the personal histories of two lovers who found and lost each other amid the upheaval. Forty years after her twin children were killed by the FLN (Algerian Liberation Front), 65-year-old Anna leaves Switzerland for Algiers in search of her children's graves and her Arab first husband, Nassreddine. Attempting to disguise her European identity in a land rife with racism and terrorism, she dons traditional Arab dress and enlists the help of nine-year-old Jallal, a precocious, destitute street peddler. The unlikely couple ventures off into the mountains, but Nassreddine is living in Algiers, "the dirty, cruel capital which, in lieu of family, he has learned to love so dearly." Benmalek uses Anna's search for her husband, a spiritual pilgrimage in its own right, as a way of reaching into the past: he shows Anna as a disillusioned circus acrobat; Nassreddine imprisoned, interrogated, tortured and wrongly accused of everything from resistance fighting to cannibalism. Despite the violence, corruption and discord, however, Benmalek never denies Algiers its beauty—"magnificent beneath its blazing sun." Vivid language and striking metaphors bring the landscape to life, and temporal shifts establish a punishing distance between the characters as they search for one another. This book was a bestseller in France, where it was awarded the Prix Rahid. With a poetic but light-handed translation by Joanna Kilmartin, a more modest but admiring reception here should be expected.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"A compelling love story... As the evocative language dramatizes its subjectterrorism and its consequencesthe effect is chilling and relentless." -- San Francisco Chronicle
"A complex tale of love and personal loss inextricably connected to the era of Algerias war for independence." -- Library Journal, Starred Review
"Benmalek skillfully juggles time shifts and multiple characters; despite the political chaos he depicts, the reader never feels lost." -- The Washington Post Book World
"[A] compelling, richly plotted novel of love and redemption that adroitly employs old-fashioned storytelling to denounce political oppression." -- Entertainment Weekly
"[Benmalek] imagines a world where hope can exist for his characters and, by extension, for Algeria." -- Time Out New York
A captivating novel...Benmalek's...interweaving of romance and turbulent history will remind readers of Michael Ondaatje. -- Publishers Weekly, starred review, Jul. 5, 2004
Solid, engaging, and agonizingly brutal. -- Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2004
Top customer reviews
That’s where our story begins. Years later, the woman, now a widow in her sixties with an adult son, returns to Algeria; back to the on-going unrest. It’s unsafe for women, especially a European woman traveling alone. Is she insane? she asks herself. She tells her son that she is vacationing in Egypt. She seeks out her former husband to find out if he is dead or alive. She dons a burka as a disguise and finds a partner to help her navigate the conflict and the rural villages – a ten-year old street urchin with whom she develops a grandmotherly relationship. Translated from the French; lots of local color of rural and urban Algeria, and a good read.
The Lovers of Algeria follows a star-crossed couple--Anna, a Swiss acrobat who initially travels to Algeria in the early 1940s, and Nassreddine, an Algerian man--through most of the 20th century. The timeline jumps back and forth, and while I was at first annoyed when I'd been reading about the 1990s, reached page 90 (where it jumps to the 1920s) and realized most of the rest of the book was backstory, it actually works out pretty well and turned out to be a more compelling story than I expected. The characters themselves are all right--adequate for their roles, and there's some complexity to their relationships (the central romance is imperfect), but they're not especially memorable.
Aside from telling a good story, this book is most memorable for its portrayal of the upheaval and violence in 20th century Algeria--a country struggling with first colonialism, then terrorism, not to mention poverty and a lack of resources to deal with its problems. It's from the perspective of average people, so it doesn't provide a high-level explanation of policy; instead we get an on-the-ground view of what life is like for civilians just struggling to get by amidst the instability and violence. And Benmalek manages to do this without being simplistic or too sentimental; the world of the book feels three-dimensional. It's an ugly place, so readers just looking for romance may want to skip this one, but it gives real beyond-the-headlines insight into what people caught between terrorists and an ineffective government have to deal with.
While I found it a worthwhile read, though, and sped through most of it in a single day, there were a lot of little annoyances that together bring it down to 3 stars. The timeline doesn't add up (Anna apparently ran off with the circus four years before she was born). The use of the present tense is inconsistent, and even more jarring in a book that jumps back and forth in time. There are a lot of exclamation points in the narration, and sometimes it's unclear who is speaking. Benmalek obsessively describes women's sexual characteristics, even when writing from their own perspectives. The ending almost seems to be missing a paragraph or two--it just ends, without telling us what the characters plan to do next.
And, perhaps most unfortunate of all, two or three major character decisions struck me as terribly implausible. For instance, Anna and Nassreddine's relationship begins with a contrived romance-novel-style scenario, in which even though he's a virtual stranger and she has no intention of having a sexual relationship, she decides to leave the circus and move into his one-room hut (just the two of them) so she can be available for a friend. Um, right.
That said, if you can put up with a few eyebrow-raising scenarios, it is an engaging story, and the translation is fluidly written. Recommended for those interested in learning more about Algeria, or those who love decades-long odds-defying love stories.