“My name is Fatima Daas. The name of a girl from Clichy who crosses the tracks to get to school.”
An autobiographical first novel, The Last One tells the story of Fatima and her family. The confusing polarities between different worlds and cultures that are portrayed sparked an intense Media debate in France. Although based on true events and experiences, Fatima Daas changed certain aspects in order to be free to write what she wanted, and convey her feelings about specific events. Continue reading Review | The Last One, Fatima Daas, trs. Lara Vergnaud | HopeRoad Publishing
Turf Wars is the second of Olivier Norek’s Captain Coste trilogy, set in the banlieues of Paris.
Norek has an unusual C.V. Born in Toulouse in 1975, he worked for a humanitarian charity in in the 1990s, and contributed to the re-construction of hospitals and refugee camps in Guyana and the former Yugoslavia. He then joined the French marines for two years, before becoming a policeman in 1997. After working in the police force in Paris for eighteen years, he started his fourth career: crime writer. To date, he’s published six novels and he was one of the writers for the sixth series of Engrenages (Spiral). Continue reading Guest Review | Turf Wars (2) Olivier Norek trs. Nick Caistor | MacLehose Press
Imbued with her hallmark humour and heightened sensitivity, Faïza Guène’s Men Don’t Cry (Un homme, ça ne pleure pas) is her latest offering to lovers of good fiction in translation, deftly rendered into English by Sarah Ardizzone. We witness a family struggling with exile and integration as experienced by Mourad, born in Nice to Algerian parents.
He is keen to escape the clutches of his well-meaning but excessively controlling mother who imposes traditional ways of thinking and living on her three children – along with copious helpings of home-cooked food – handing down community values and morality in a bid to fend off the potentially corrupting influence of the host culture, and to impose order on the complexities of modern France. Continue reading Review | Men Don’t Cry, Faïza Guène | Cassava Republic Press
The Moroccan poet, novelist, essayist, and journalist, Tahar Ben Jelloun, is one of France’s most celebrated writers. He has written extensively about Moroccan culture, the immigrant experience, human rights, and sexual identity. An author who intervenes in politics, On Terrorism: Conversations with My Daughter (translated from the French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins) is the third book in a series in which the previous titles are Racism and Islam explained. It takes the form of a semi-imagined dialogue between him and his daughter. Continue reading Review | On Terrorism: Conversations with My Daughter, Tahar Ben Jelloun | Small Axes/HopeRoad
As subdivisions or departments of bigger publishers, imprints break up monolithic companies, give space to individual editors to stamp their list with a defining character and originality, and reassure authors that they are not disappearing into the corporate ether. The MacLehose Press is an independently-minded imprint of Quercus Books, founded by Christopher MacLehose and publishing the very best, often prize-winning, literature from around the world; mainly in translation but with a few outstanding exceptions as English language originals.
“La vie est belle, le destin s’en écarte
Personne ne joue avec les mêmes cartes
Le berceau lève le voile, multiples sont les routes qu’il dévoile
Tant pis, on n’est pas nés sous la même étoile.”
IAM – Nés sous la même étoile [Born Under the Same Star]
Although a thriller, Arab Jazz is really about muddled identities, lives destroyed by religious extremism, and dysfunctional families coexisting in fragile racial harmony in impoverished neighbourhoods. The narrative travels between the ungentrified 19ième arrondissement of north-east Paris, home of the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket killers, and Brooklyn, with its Sephardic and Hasidic synagogues and kosher diners. Karim Miské’s debut novel excellently translated by Sam Gordon is a good, very ‘real’ read.
Continue reading Review | Arab Jazz, Karim Miské | MacLehose Press