Publication Date: Oct 16, 2018
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This engaging collection of essays showcases the extraordinary passion, insight, and range of Kamel Daoud, bestselling author of The Meursault Investigation.
Kamel Daoud has been a journalist for more than twenty years, writing the most-read column in Algeria, in Le Quotidien d’Oran, while also collaborating on various online media and contributing to foreign publications such as the New York Times. During the 2010–2016 period, he put his name to almost two thousand texts—first intended for the Algerian public, then read more and more throughout the world as his reputation grew.
Whether he is criticizing political Islam or the decline of the Algerian regime, embracing the hope kindled by Arab revolutions or defending women’s rights, Daoud does so in his own inimitable style: at once poetic and provocative, he captures his devoted followers with fresh, counterintuitive arguments about the nature of humanity, religion, and liberty.
Excerpt from Chroniques
The sounds of New York are celebrated by residents. “If I don’t hear the ambulances and the police sirens, I feel uneasy,” said M. last night at the wheel of his enormous car, beneath the violent lights of Times Square. It can be funny listening to Algerians in exile talk about their foreign cities: their sangfroid ties to the place, by accident, or through a slow-developing love. There’s a time-honored tradition of comparing the lost country with one found at end of a road. Disappointments and ambitions track the time like a clock. The most intellectually amusing point is this “third way of exile” in a land that, for us, is far away. Explanation: the Algerians in New York are conscious of at least one thing—having escaped the geography of French Algeria and Algerian France. Here, there’s no history weighing on them except their own. You encounter new souls. New possibilities. It has its own particularities. A few brilliant successes, and they make the pilgrimage each year back to the source, these clever Algerians who want to give something to their country but aren’t welcomed, and are instead ignored. It’s the bitter narrative of brilliant exiles in America; there is also the narrative of those who don’t know if staying is dying and if exile is betrayal. The youth of the present generation ask the question with anxiety. There is, additionally, the narrative of those who chose decisively, live well, have children and new names. There are those who stayed by accident, discovered America inadvertently like Christopher Columbus. And then the epic narrative without an end of those who can’t forgive the homeland for wanting to finish them off, those who don’t forgive Algeria for what it is or what it did to them. It’s a long catalog of soliloquies for the Algerian who carries his land with him.
“Daoud is a brilliant, indeed dazzling, thinker…[Chroniques is] sharp, smart, and searingly felt, demonstrating breathtaking understanding of both the world of letters and life experience. Daoud’s essays are literally death-defying, often painful, and always deeply thoughtful.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
“Daoud…offers unsparing critiques of political Islam, Arab dictatorships, Western complicity, and social and cultural repression…A stunning, defiant, and impassioned collection.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Incisive, occasionally witty and always irreverent, Daoud’s pen spares no one…Daoud’s courage in confronting the Algerian state is particularly commendable.” —Times Literary Supplement
“Shrewd and sharp…These thought-provoking writings will appeal to readers interested in geopolitical events in one of the most troubled regions of the world.” —Library Journal
“Nothing of Kamel Daoud’s exquisite prose is lost in translation in this brilliant English edition of his collected essays. Daoud is our interpreter and critic of the Arab—and by extension, Islamic—world, and no one, from the Islamists to the dictators to every rogue in between, is immune from his pointed jabs.” —Hooman Majd, author of The Ayatollah Begs to Differ
“Chroniques offers an astute and sobering critique of a region besieged by a fatalistic adherence to religious dogma and by tyrannical rule disguised as national stability. Kamel Daoud has the audacity to think differently, to confront Islamism and oppression, to reflect judiciously on a people and a region that he intimately understands, and to deconstruct the myth of an ‘Arab’ identity. Daoud’s acumen is matched only by his linguistic prowess and his use of elegant prose to unpack delicate and contentious questions of our times.” —Safwan M. Masri, author of Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly
Praise for The Meursault Investigation:
“Stunning…an intricately layered tale that…nudges us into a contemplation of Algeria’s history and current religious politics; colonialism and postcolonialism; and the ways in which language and perspective can radically alter a seemingly simple story and the social and philosophical shadows it casts backward and forward.” —Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
“Mesmerizing…an absorbing, independent story and a shrewd critique of a country trapped in history’s time warp.” —Wall Street Journal
“Rich and inventive…so convincing and so satisfying that we no longer think of the original story as the truth, but rather come to question it.” —New York Times Book Review
“Remarkable…[The Meursault Investigation’s] themes of voicelessness and vengeance feel utterly present-day.” —Vogue
“A tour-de-force.” —The New Yorker
“What makes Daoud’s book so good is that, steeped in independent thinking, it offers an illuminating, if controversial portrait of today’s Algeria.” —Fresh Air, NPR
“A biting, profound response to French colonialism…Daoud’s prose is propulsive and charged. The pages glitter with memorable phrases.” —The Economist