The Lovers of Algeria

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Anouar Benmalek, a Moroccan-born writer who writes in French but who claims citizenship in both France and Algeria, imagines in his novel, The Lovers of Algeria, a love story made violently complex by politics and religion and war. Set over a fifty-year span and in a country riven by the blood- work of religious discord and colonial intrusion, this novel describes the relationship between an Algerian, Nessreddine, and a Swiss woman, Anna, who have the fortune—both good and bad—to fall in love in a time when love is a difficult virtue to sustain.

The novel takes readers back and forth through the history of this relationship, from a first-meeting, when Anna is an acrobat in a traveling circus; through the early years of marriage and the creation of a family; through the violent rending of that family and the separation of husband and wife; through the fashioning of entirely new lives in the years succeeding that separation; and to the reunion of those lovers in their older age. As Benmalek makes clear, love is a very problematic proposition in a place as troubled as Algeria: over time, he describes the cruelties and barbarities of the French colonial army, the national army and police of Algeria, and the Muslim insurgents and terrorists. The combatants sometimes are different, but the radical violence remains a constant in the history of this dark and bloody place, and Benmalek plays no favorites in imagining this world, though the Islamic...

(The entire section is 486 words.)