One afternoon, Shaykh Abdelmajid Boularwah embarks upon a journey from Algiers to Constantine in search of lost relatives who might help him defraud the new socialist government in its attempt to implement land reform. Through a labyrinth of back alleys and past memories, Boularwah makes his way across the seven bridges of Constantine, battling the forces of a rapidly changing society while confronting the demons of his own horrific past. The sequence of his recollections and his bizarre internal monologues construct a biographical narrative of modern Algeria from a consistently adversarial and surrealistic point of view, told by the defiantly proud scion of a family of ruthless landowners, swindlers traitors and collaborators with colonial authorities.
This is the vision of post-colonial Algeria — a society in chaos, a world turned upside down — articulated in graphic detail and drawn from the stark images of Islamic eschatology and apocalyptic legends. Shaykh Boularwah’s odyssey transports us from past to present, colonialism to independence, tradition to modernity, hope to despair, and from one failed ideology to another. Written in the early 1970’s, this classic work is an ominous message about the evils of intolerance, ignorance and extremism, told in the language that resonates loudly, presciently foretelling the dreadful events which would later besiege Algeria.
About the Author
Tahir Wattar is a pioneer of the modern Arabic novel in Algeria. In addition to his many novels, he has also written several plays and short stories. His works have been translated into French, Spanish and Italian and adapetd for the theatre. He currently resides in Algiers.
About the Translator
William Granara is professor of Arabic language and literature at Harvard University, and the former executive director of the Center for Arabic Study at the American University in Cairo.