NEDJMA by Kateb Yacine


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Written by an Algerian, this is a non-political novel -- the story of the behavior of a group of Algerians during the bloodshed and imprisonment which followed the May 8, 1945 demonstrations over the French ""invasion"" of Algeria. It begins with the escape of one of the group from the the French police, unfolds with other arrests, torture, betrayal by French colon and arbitrary flashbacks into childhood, love affair, family squabble and tribal incident. The Algerians are Lakhdar, Rachid, Mustapha, Mourad, laborers and students, curiously linked by their varied relationships to an enigmatic young woman, Nedjma. The people are rarely identified visually and the description of the action is cryptic, the dialogue clipped and unvarnished. This gives the narrative a neo-realism reminiscent of Camus with shades of lonely doom. The story line ascends in dizzying circles and is composed of seemingly disconnected fragments from the lives of the Algerians (i.e. sections labeled ""Mustapha's Notebook""). The final cumulative effect is that violence ebbs and flows in the lives of the Arabs and the hiding, the mixed loyalties, the horror and death are commonplace events in the struggle to exist. There have been startling revelations recently on the Algerian War and a few of the torture techniques of the French are described in detail here. They are too believable and ingenious to be fiction. Elusive as the book is, there are moments of unexpected poetry and incisive clarity that merit it a careful reading.

Pub Date: Feb. 24th, 1960
ISBN: 0813913128
Publisher: George Braziller