A taut and harrowing account of a young Algerian actor caught up in the political strife of the 1990s who joins a commando of Islamic guerillas.
Why, some ask these days, would anyone want to roll back centuries of secular progress in the name of theocracy and religious war? Most Muslims, though, see the question in more elemental terms. Young Nafa Walid, for example, simply got fed up with the corruption of the secular authorities in his native Algeria. A small-time film actor who never got his big break, Nafa worked as the chauffeur for a rich Algerian family whose members alternately insulted and pampered him—and eventually asked him to cover up a murder. Disgusted, Nafa left them and tried to find peace by returning to Islam. At the mosque, he became acquainted with members of an underground movement called the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), which sought to overthrow Algeria’s ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) in order to establish an Islamic government. Hesitant about becoming involved, Nafa agrees to drive a taxi owned by the FIS but tries to keep clear of political entanglements. He later agrees to be a courier, and later still (after his father is murdered by FLN police) joins the maquis (underground guerillas) and takes part in assassinations and kidnappings. An innocent but not a dupe, Nafa comes to his radicalism gradually, and the great virtue of Khadra’s account is that it makes Nafa’s descent into partisan violence fully credible and even largely sympathetic. The ending is predictable, of course, but the author depicts it with the same power and tension that informs the rest of the story.
A truly disturbing work that offers a rare insight into the making of a zealot. Khadra (In the Name of God, not reviewed) is the pseudonym of Mohammed Moulessehoul, a former officer in the Algerian army.