The Angels Die by Yasmina Khadra


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I have long been a fan of Yasmina Khadra, whose books usually give one a realistic look at Arab culture and family life, alongside the cultural oppression and fundamental extremism that has saturated their daily lives.  This book takes us back a bit further than others I have read.

The Angels Die is set in 1920s and 1930s Algeria during a time when French colonials ruled over the Arab nation and the native population has been decimated by a century of bloody conquest and rampant disease.  Those born in Algeria are treated as if they are foreigners in their own land.  The French live in luxury while the Algerians live in squalor.

Twenty-seven year old Turambo grew up in a shanty town in Oran.   Turambo tells us of his life growing up in Oran where he constantly rages at the unfairness of life.  But Turambo’s willful spirit doesn’t allow him to give up his dream of a better future.  At home, he is embarrassed by and resentful of his father, while he longs for an unspoken but promising love with his cousin Nora.  When Turambo finds an unlikely friend in a French boy, Gino, who cares for a sick mother, he begins to take refuge from his life in Gino’s apartment.  As Turambo grows from a boy to a man, he is sure that his chance to become a boxer is his way out of the harsh life he was brought up in.  He will make a success of himself, win the girl he loves and show the oppressors that Algerians are a proud and indomitable people.  But Turambo’s rage at all the inequities of the world could very well cause him to be his own worst enemy.

Maybe you can tell that this book caused me to take a little look at the history of Algeria.  Khadra continues to educate me each time I read one of his books.  The history of Algeria is both tragedy and triumph at different times as is so much of the world.  IMHO, we need to continue translating all authors of this caliber.

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