They should have known. If they had read this book they could have known that maybe this writer is not quite kosher.

They is the Arab Ambassadors Council, this council is based in Paris (not in an Arab country!). Every year this Council gives a prize of € 15,000 for the Gallimard Prix du Roman Arabe. In 2012 Sansal was awarded the Prize for his book ‘Rue Darwin’, but he never did recieve the price. Why? The Council found out that Sansal had visited Israel in 2012 for the Jerusalem Writers Festival. The Council revoked the price.

Sansal commented that the Arab countries had ‘shut themselves in a prison of intolerance’. The chairman of the jury resigned. He was of the opinion that the pressure of Hamas was involved, the Council denied this. Hamas was of the opinion that the presence of Sansal was a treason to the Palestinian people. Sansal not only criticized the Arab countries, but also Hamas, that he called a terrorist organization, that had taken Gaza and Islam hostage.   By the way, in 2006 his books were banned in his country Algeria.  

Why should they have known? In his book ‘Rue Darwin’ Sansal (1949) writes about the protagonist Yazid. He is called to enlist in the army in the heady days of the Yom Kippur war in 1973. His and his fellow recruits are preparing themselves for a flight to Egypt to join the fight against the Jewish Zionists. The Arab countries seem to be winning, but Yadiz silently sympathizes with Israel. The position of Israel reminds him of his youth: alone and surrounded. Yadiz does not join the warmongering of the president when he visits the barracks where Yadiz stays. The Algerian Boumedienne states that the victory will more beautiful, when more people offer their life. Yadiz does not agree with the attitude of the Arab leaders. 

The name Rue Darwin refers to a street in a poor area of the capital city of Algeria. For several years Yazid lived there with his mother and siblings. Downstairs lived a rabbi, who had synagogue meetings in his house. We follow the days of Yazid, from a young boy till the present days of an older man with his reponsibilities. But we also see a history of Algeria, as a colony of France, as an independent state, as a state where violence erupts.  His family is a family that has entered the wide world, partly Algerian, partly belonging to the wider world, France, Canada, United States. And the country Algeria is closing itself, filtering outside influences. 

The family is an intricate web of relations. Relations by blood and relations by responsibility. A history of revelations, also for the man Yazid. A story with twists and turns. A history of trying to find your roots and your responsibilities. 

A very good read. 

Boualem Sansal – Rue Darwin – Paris 2011

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I enjoy reading about Africa. New books. Old books. By African writers. By non-African writers. Novel. History. Travel. Biographies. Autobiographies. Politics. Colonialism. Poetry.

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