Moulessehoul, Mohammed 1956-
MOULESSEHOUL, Mohammed 1956-
Born 1956 in Algeria; immigrated to France, 2000; married Yasmina Khadra.
Home—Mexico. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Doubleday, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
Novelist. Military service: Formerly an officer in the Algerian army.
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.
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.
Also author of novels published in Algeria, c. 1990s.
"INSPECTOR LLOB" SERIES
Double blanc, Baleine (Paris, France), 1997.
Morituri, Baleine (Paris, France), 1997, English translation, Toby Press (New Milford, CT), 2003.
L'automne des chimères, Baleine (Paris, France), 1998.
Le dingue au bistouri, Flammarion (Paris, France), 1999.
Some novels have been translated into Spanish and Portuguese.
Algerian novelist Mohammed Moulessehoul 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, his criticism of both sides of the Algerian civil war angered his superiors, so he started using his wife's name, Yasmina Khadra, as his pseudonym at her suggestion. 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.
Moulessehoul'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 Moulessehoul 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.
Morituri, an "Inspector Llob" novel, is among Moulessehoul's works that have been translated into English. It 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."
Moulessehoul'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 translation 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 critic for Kirkus Reviews was impressed by Moulessehoul's ability to make Walid's decision to join the fundamentalists "fully credible and even largely sympathetic."
Moulessehoul'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's Ray 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."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 1, 2004, Ray Olson, review of The Swallows of Kabul, p. 950.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2003, review of Wolf Dreams, p. 704; November 15, 2003, review of The Swallows of Kabul, p. 1330.
Library Journal, July, 2003, review of Morituri, p. 19; January, 2004, Edward Keane, review of The Swallows of Kabul, p. 157.
Publishers Weekly, December 1, 2003, review of The Swallows of Kabul, p. 40.
Translation Review Supplement, July, 2000, review of In the Name of God, p. 11.
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.*