Boualem Sansal

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Boualem Sansal was born in Algeria in 1949 and started his career as a writer at the age of 50. Until that point the economist and engineer, who holds a doctoral degree, had worked as a high-ranking official in the Algerian ministry of industry. But the assassination of President Boudiaf (1992), the death of a friend, and the ordeal of persecution in a homeland burdened with civil war inspired him to write about his country, and in so doing enter into a state of inner exile.
The outcome was his debut novel ´Le serment des barbares´, which was published in France, where it was praised by the press and received the Prix du Premier Roman. ´Le Nouvel Observateur´ celebrated the book as a ´masterpiece´. The novel, now a film based on a screenplay by Jorge Semprúns, opens like a detective story: in the little Algerian city of Rouiba, two men of very different social standing – the wealthy and inviolable godfather of the region, Moh and the impoverished Bakour – are found murdered on the same day. When it becomes clear to the inspector in the Bakour case that the murders are related and that their background is politically charged, the story quickly turns into an examination of the state of affairs in the North African country. The inspector’s investigations become a search for the roots of terrorist violence in present-day Algeria, amidst corruption, oppression and Islam.

In his novels Sansal draws the attention of Algerians, who have existed as a nation only since the independence of 1962, to potential ways to find their own identity. Indeed, this would seem to be the idea encapsulated in the title of the novel ´L’enfant fou de l’arbre creux´ (t: The mad child from the hollow tree), which was published in 2000 and won the Michel Dard Literature Prize the following year. Sansal explains how the child, tied up in the courtyard of a prison, stands for the Algerian people in "this giant prison of Algeria. A childish people, blinded, held captive by lies. These people have reached a point where they neither know who they are, where they come from, nor what they want."

In France, the former colonial power, Sansal is celebrated as a linguistic innovator because of his playful use of the French language. In Algeria on the other hand, due to the politically explosive topics of his satirical but poetic novels, he is perceived as a detriment to his country. Nevertheless he continues to reside with his wife and two adult daughters in his homeland and refuses to shield his identity by publishing under a pseudonym. The cheerfulness of Sansal’s novels speaks for his faith in Algeria’s future. His most recent work ´Dis-moi le paradis´ ( t: Tell me about paradise, 2003) represents a rough draft for such a future.
Author: International Festival of Literature Berlin (ilb)

Works

Le village de l´allemand ou Le journal des frères Schiller

Published Written,
2008
Gallimard

Petit éloge de la mémoire

Published Written,
2007
Gallimard

Poste restante : Alger : Lettre de colère et d´espoir à mes compatriotes

Published Written,
2006
Gallimard

Journal intime et politique, Algérie 40 ans après

Published Written,
2003
With Maïssa Bey, Mohamed Kacimi, Nourredine Saadi, Leïla Sebbar. Gallimard

Dis-moi le paradis

Published Written,
2003
Gallimard

L‘enfant fou de l‘arbre creux

Published Written,
2002
Gallimard

L‘enfant fou de l‘arbre creux

Published Written,
2002
Gallimard

Le serment des barbares

Published Written,
1999
Gallimard

Merits

Michel-Dard-Literaturpreis for L‘enfant fou de l‘arbre creux

Www

International Festival of Literature Berlin

Interview on Qantara

On parallels between Islamism and National Socialism