Khadra, Yasmina 1956–
Khadra, Yasmina 1956–
[A pseudonym] (Mohammed Moulessehoul)
Born 1956, in Algeria; immigrated to France, 2000; married Yasmina Khadra.
Novelist. Military service: Formerly an officer in the Algerian army.
Médaille d'Or, Académie Française, 2001; Prix des Libraires, 2006.
Les agneaux du Seigneur, Editions Julliard (Paris, France), 1998, translation by Linda Black published as In the Name of God, Toby Press (London, England), 2000.
A quoi rêvent les loups, Julliard (Paris, France), 1999, translation by Linda Black published as Wolf Dreams, Toby Press (New Milford, CT), 2003.
Le dingue au bistouri, Flammarion (Paris, France), 1999.
L'écrivain (autobiographical novel), Julliard (Paris, France), 2000.
Les hirondelles de Kaboul, Julliard (Paris, France), 2002, translation by John Cullen published as The Swallows of Kabul, Nan A. Talese/Doubleday (New York, NY), 2004.
L'imposture des mots, Julliard (Paris, France), 2002.
Cousine K, Julliard (Paris, France), 2003.
L'attentat, Julliard (Paris, France), 2005, translation by John Cullen published as The Attack, Nan A. Talese/ Doubleday (New York, NY), 2006
Les sirénes de Bagdad, Julliard (Paris, France), 2006, translation by John Cullen published as The Sirens of Baghdad, Nan A. Talese/ Doubleday (New York, NY), 2007.
Author's novels have been translated into Spanish and Portuguese.
"INSPECTOR LLOB" NOVEL SERIES
Double blanc, Baleine (Paris, France), 1997, translation by Aubrey Botsford published as Double Blank, Toby Press (New Milford, CT), 2005.
Morituri, Baleine (Paris, France), 1997, English translation, Toby Press (New Milford, CT), 2003.
L'automne des chimères, Baleine (Paris, France), 1998, translation by Aubrey Botsford published as Autumn of the Phantoms, Toby Press (New Milford, CT), 2006.
NOVELS; AS MOHAMMED MOULESSEHOUL
Amen!, La Pensèe universelle (Paris, France), 1984.
Houria, Entreprise nationale du livre (Algeria), 1984.
La fille du Pont, Entreprise nationale du livre (Algeria), 1985.
El-Kahira, cellule de la mort, Entreprise nationale du livre (Algeria), 1986.
De L'autre côte de la ville, L'Harmattan (Paris, France), 1988.
Le privilége du phènix, Entreprise nationale du livre (Algeria), 1989.
The Attack was optioned for film by Focus Features/Random House Film.
Algerian novelist Yasmina Khadra was enrolled in the Algerian army when he was nine years old and went on to become a high-ranking officer. When he began to write novels under his own name, Mohammed Moulessehoul, his criticism of both sides of the Algerian civil war angered his superiors, so at his wife's suggestion, he started using her name as his pseudonym. In 2000, he went into exile in France and began writing full time, and after revealing his true identity in 2001, he moved to Mexico.
Khadra's first two novels, which were written in Algeria, did not receive much attention. His first success came with a series of mysteries about Inspector Brahim Llob, which sold well in France and Italy. These books fit within the genre of police procedurals, but they stand out because they detail the horror of life amidst civil war and show the evils perpetrated by both the Islamic fundamentalist opposition and the governing regime.
Other novels by Khadra explore why some Algerians turn from lives shackled by government corruption to the violence of opposition terrorism. He has also written an autobiographical novel, L'écrivain, and a novel about the experiences of two men living in Kabul, Afghanistan, under Taliban rule.
The debut title in Khadra's noir detective series, Double blanc, translated as Double Blank, introduces Inspector Llob, who is investigating a series of murders that seem to have been committed by a group of Islamic fundamentalists. Things heat up for the inspector, however, when members of the fundamentalists turn up as victims in this "brutal and cynical look at his native country," as a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted. A Kirkus Reviews critic had a mixed assessment of the novel, observing that it was "slight as a police procedural, but a fascinating tour of a corrupt and crumbling society." Higher praise came from Booklist contributor Ray Olson who termed Double Blank a "very smart, gory thriller, deepened by sad knowledge of contemporary Algerian ‘business.’" Morituri, the second "Inspector Llob" novel follows an investigation by Llob and his lieutenant Lino into the disappearance of the daughter of one of the most powerful men in Algiers. In his search, Llob sees both the poverty and fear that cripple much of the city, as well as the protections and comforts afforded the upper class. A Library Journal reviewer called the novel "an unforgettable picture of the tragedy of modern Algeria, in language of breathtaking power and poetry."
Speaking with Richard Marcus on the Blog Critics Web site, Khadra noted the inspiration for this series: "By creating the Superintendent Llob character, I wanted to have a typically Algerian character. Moreover, in my noir novels, Algiers is also a central character. I did not seek to imitate my preferred authors. I wrote in French, but with my sensitivity Bedouin, my Algerian glance, my anger and my Algerian hopes." The author further explained to Marcus: "I created … Llob as a diversion for the Algerian reader…. I had never thought that Superintendent Llob was going to exceed the borders of the country and appeal to readers in Europe, and America." Inspector Llob's third outing, L'automne des chimères, translated as Autumn of the Phantoms, finds the inspector once again besieged by fundamentalists. An old friend from his hometown has been killed by Islamic renegades, and returning for the burial, Llob tries to aid the deceased's brother, a famous painter. Then, returning to Algiers, he discovers he has been forcibly retired because of a novel he has written under an assumed name. Olson, writing in Booklist, found this novel "powerful, anguished, and anguishing stuff." Similarly, a Publishers Weekly contributor felt there is "more than a touch of Camus in [the novel's] bleak view of a society in which power and cruelty are synonymous." Higher praise came from an Internet Bookwatch reviewer who termed the book an "enthralling tale," as well as a "a page-turning complex and educational novel." And a Kirkus Reviews critic called Autumn of the Phantoms an "involving and poignant narrative [that] caps the Llob trilogy in ways veterans of the first two installments can best appreciate."
Khadra's Les agneaux du Seigneur, which was published in English as In the Name of God, is the story of Kada Hilal, a man living in a remote village largely unaffected by the fighting in Algiers. When he is rejected as a suitor to the mayor's daughter, Kada departs and joins the Moujahideen in Afghanistan. Later he helps spread the reign of violence to his hometown. In World Literature Today, Nada Elia commented on the force of the original version: "The reader is left breathless, longing for the boredom of the past…. Even for someone seasoned into the ugliness of war, Les agneaux du Seigneur is a disturbing read." The translation was appraised in the Translation Review Supplement, a critic commenting that "Khadra's novel gives [the victims] unforgettable faces and powerfully attests to the worst in human nature."
The transformation of Nafa Walid, a young man from the Casbah in Algiers, is the subject of A quoi rêvent les loups, which was published in English as Wolf Dreams. Walid, a handsome young man hoping to become a movie star, gains employment as a chauffeur for a rich, corrupt family. After he is lured into disposing of the body of his boss's mistress after she overdoses, Walid escapes this nightmare by entering another, becoming trained as an assassin by Muslim fundamentalists. Hédi Abdel-Jaouad made special note of the author's description of the evolving status of the fundamentalists in a review for World Literature Today: "The chapters … are well documented and beautifully written … a salutary reprieve from the graphic inventory of fratricidal strife." The critic called the book "undoubtedly a great novel that one reads with both interest and profit." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews was impressed by Khadra's ability to make Walid's decision to join the fundamentalists "fully credible and even largely sympathetic."
Khadra's experiences in Algeria give him special insight into the conditions that existed in Afghanistan during Taliban rule. In Les hirondelles de Kaboul, translated as The Swallows of Kabul, he depicts the moral strain imposed on two men: Atiq is a jailer married to a chronically ill woman and Mohsen is the husband of a beautiful, educated woman who becomes one of Atiq's prisoners. This woman, Zunaira, is falsely accused of killing her husband in a violent argument. Atiq is shaken out of complacency by her beauty and tries to save her. Reviewers found the novel shocking and memorable. A Kirkus Reviews critic was troubled by "static patches" in the extended commentary of the lead characters, but concluded that the novel is "informed by a fine ironic intelligence, and its message is not an easy one to shake off." Booklist writer Olson credited it with "sledgehammer power and authority," while Edward Keane said in Library Journal that The Swallows of Kabul, "ably translated from French, has crisp prose and an ominous—but not heavyhanded—tone." A Publishers Weekly critic noted that the "slim, harrowing novel" is comprised of "simple, elegant prose, finely drawn characters and chilling insights."
L'attentat, translated as The Attack, tells the story of a Palestinian surgeon, Dr. Amin Jaafari, who battles to save the lives of wounded victims of a suicide bomber attack, only to learn that the perpetrator was his wife. At first devastated, Jaafari soon discovers another emotion: rage. He vows to find out why and how his wife could have committed such an atrocity and such a betrayal to him and others. Olson, writing in Booklist, called this "a detective story sans detective, suffused with raging grief over what sectarian violence has made of the Islamic world." Susanne Wells, reviewing the novel in Library Journal, commented: "This could prove to be a book of some importance owing to its fine technique and relevance to current world affairs." Kamila Shamsie, reviewing the novel in the New Statesman, found not only the message to be important, but also the novel as a work of art: "Jaafari's very human drama is the heart of this thoughtful and affecting work."
Les sirénes de Bagdad—translated as The Sirens of Baghdad—further pursues this theme of how an intelligent and educated person could turn to terrorism. Here a nameless Iraqi youth chronicles the incidents that have led him to terrorism to fight the West and the United States in particular. From the bombing of Baghdad to the humiliation of his father by American GI's, the incidents mount inexorably to push the young man to violent action. Booklist critic Olson felt the novel "dramatically embodies the points about cultural clash" which have led to the impasse between Islam and the West. Library Journal reviewer Joy Humphrey likewise thought it was "an important and disturbing novel," one which, from a literary standpoint, was marred by undeveloped characters and the manner in which "complex issues and events are drawn in somewhat simplistic terms." A critic for Kirkus Reviews, however, had no such reservations, terming this novel "perhaps the most frighteningly plausible doomsday scenario yet to appear in fictional treatments of this seemingly insoluble crisis." Similarly, a Publishers Weekly reviewer praised the "powerful message of how the occupation of Iraq has brutalized both the Iraqis and the Americans."
Many of the author's books deal with terrorism. In his interview with Marcus on the Blog Critics Web site, Khadra said that he writes about this theme for two main reasons: "Initially because it is a planetary danger, that I know of from the inside and that I can describe with clearness and intelligence. Also, because Westerners understand nothing, and never say anything important on the subject. My books consist of explanations to clarify the consciences and alleviate the spirits traumatized by the political handling of media misinformation."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 1, 2004, Ray Olson, review of The Swallows of Kabul, p. 950; February 15, 2005, Ray Olson, review of Double Blank, p. 1065; January 1, 2006, Ray Olson, review of Autumn of the Phantoms, p. 68; April 1, 2006, Ray Olson, review of The Attack, p. 19; March 1, 2007, Ray Olson, review of The Sirens of Baghdad, p. 38.
Bulletin with Newsweek, December 19, 2006, Anne Susskind, review of The Attack, p. 159.
Christian Century, October 31, 2006, "Extremists," p. 34.
Detroit Free Press, May 14, 2006, "Detroit Free Press Marta Salij Books Column: Marta Salij: How Does a Terrorist Think?"
Drood Review of Mystery, January-February, 2005, Michael H. Galbreath, review of Double Blank, p. 11.
French Review, April, 2003, review of L'ecrivain, p. 1040; October, 2003, review of L'imposture des mots, p. 197.
Internet Bookwatch, April, 2006, review of Autumn of the Phantoms.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2003, review of Wolf Dreams, p. 704; November 15, 2003, review of The Swallows of Kabul, p. 1330; January 15, 2005, review of Double Blank, p. 86; November 15, 2005, review of Autumn of the Phantoms, p. 1214; April 1, 2006, review of The Attack, p. 315; March 15, 2007, review of The Sirens of Baghdad.
Library Journal, July, 2003, review of Morituri, p. 19; January, 2004, Edward Keane, review of The Swallows of Kabul, p. 157; March 1, 2005, Ronnie H. Terpening, review of Double Blank, p. 72; May 1, 2006, Susanne Wells, review of The Attack, p. 79; April 15, 2007, Joy Humphrey, review of The Sirens of Baghdad, p. 72.
Middle East Journal, autumn, 2006, Carla Humud, review of The Attack, p. 831.
New Statesman, July 10, 2006, Kamila Shamsie, review of The Attack, p. 58.
New York Times, May 15, 2006, "An Arab-Israeli Learns Too Late of a Stranger in the Family," p. 6; April 26, 2007, "Terrorists Reel in a Pawn from Small-Town Iraq," p. 9.
New York Times Book Review, May 21, 2006, "Suicide Girl," p. 12.
Philadelphia Inquirer, May 10, 2006, Frank Wilson, review of The Attack.
Publishers Weekly, December 1, 2003, review of The Swallows of Kabul, p. 40; January 31, 2005, review of Double Blank, p. 52; December 12, 2005, review of Autumn of the Phantoms, p. 41; March 13, 2006, review of The Attack, p. 38; March 12, 2007, review of The Sirens of Baghdad, p. 37.
Times Literary Supplement, March 10, 2006, "Algeria in Exile," p. 21; June 30, 2006, "The Suspect," p. 23.
Translation Review Supplement, July, 2000, review of In the Name of God, p. 11.
Washington Post Book World, June 11, 2006, Jonathan Wilson, review of The Attack, p. 6.
World Literature Today, summer, 1999, Nadia Elia, review of Les agneaux du Seigneur, p. 575; spring, 2000, Hédi Abdel-Jaouad, review of A quoi rêvent les loups, pp. 340-341; summer, 2001, Jean-Marie Volet, review of L'ecrivain, p. 113; July-September, 2003, Sarah Davies Cordova, review of L'imposture Des Mots, p. 81; January-February, 2006, "La part du mort," p. 53; May-June, 2007, Michele Levy, review of The Attack, p. 69.
BellaOnline,http://www.bellaonline.com/ (July 14, 2007), Julie L. Baumler, review of The Attack.
Blog Critics,http://www.blogcritics.org/ (February 18, 2007), Richard Marcus, interview with Khadra.
Guardian Online,http://books.guardian.co.uk/ (June 22, 2005), Stuart Jeffries, "Reader, I'm a He."
PEN American Center Web site,http://www.pen.org/ (July 14, 2007), "Yasmina Khadra."