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Biography of Boualem SANSAL

Algeria > Literature : Boualem SANSAL

Boualem SANSAL
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Born on 15/10/1949 (format : day/month/year)

Biography :

Boualem Sansal (b. in 1949 ),is an Algerian writer.started his career as a writer at the age of 50. Until that point the economist and engineer, who holds a doctoral degree, had worked as a high-ranking official in the Algerian ministry of industry. But the assassination of President Boudiaf (1992), the death of a friend, and the ordeal of persecution in a homeland burdened with civil war inspired him to write about his country, and in so doing enter into a state of inner exile. His books have cost him his job and landed him on the index of banned authors at home in Algeria, but Boualem Sansal remains a resident and activist there. His efforts earned him the 2011 German Book Trade Peace Prize.

The outcome was his debut novel ´Le serment des barbares´, which was published in France, where it was praised by the press and received the Prix du Premier Roman. ´Le Nouvel Observateur´ celebrated the book as a ´masterpiece´. The novel, now a film based on a screenplay by Jorge Semprúns, opens like a detective story: in the little Algerian city of Rouiba, two men of very different social standing – the wealthy and inviolable godfather of the region, Moh and the impoverished Bakour – are found murdered on the same day. When it becomes clear to the inspector in the Bakour case that the murders are related and that their background is politically charged, the story quickly turns into an examination of the state of affairs in the North African country. The inspector’s investigations become a search for the roots of terrorist violence in present-day Algeria, amidst corruption, oppression and Islam.

In his novels Sansal draws the attention of Algerians, who have existed as a nation only since the independence of 1962, to potential ways to find their own identity. Indeed, this would seem to be the idea encapsulated in the title of the novel ´L’enfant fou de l’arbre creux´ (t: The mad child from the hollow tree), which was published in 2000 and won the Michel Dard Literature Prize the following year. Sansal explains how the child, tied up in the courtyard of a prison, stands for the Algerian people in "this giant prison of Algeria. A childish people, blinded, held captive by lies. These people have reached a point where they neither know who they are, where they come from, nor what they want."

In France, the former colonial power, Sansal is celebrated as a linguistic innovator because of his playful use of the French language. In Algeria on the other hand, due to the politically explosive topics of his satirical but poetic novels, he is perceived as a detriment to his country. Nevertheless he continues to reside with his wife and two adult daughters in his homeland and refuses to shield his identity by publishing under a pseudonym. The cheerfulness of Sansal’s novels speaks for his faith in Algeria’s future. His most recent work ´Dis-moi le paradis´ ( t: Tell me about paradise, 2003) represents a rough draft for such a future.

Last update : 11/16/2015

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