Thursday, April 2, 2015
Review: THE GERMAN MUJAHID, by Boualem Sansal
If you read about the Holocaust, or Islamic fundamentalism, or France, or immigration, or Algeria, or about people, The German Mujahid is required reading.
Set in modern day France among a French-Algerian-German family, Boualem Sansid's book tells the story of Rachel and Malrich Schiller, born in Algeria to a German father and an Algerian mother. The brothers move to France, and Rachel becomes a successful executive while Malrich flounders in the banlieue, one of the sprawling suburban high-rise communities filled with the poor encircling Paris. While Rachel assimilates, travels the world and becomes a model citizen, Malrich falls in with the Islamic fundamentalist gang ruling the roost in his housing development.
The narrative is made of excerpts from the two brothers' diaries. When the book opens Rachel is dead. There was a massacre in their Algerian village in which their parents were killed.Their father Hans was an esteemed member of his community, but after his death Rachel finds out that his father was also an escaped Nazi war criminal. Rachel then destroys himself trying to ferret out his father's every last secret, spending the rest of his life learning as much as he can about what his father did and documenting his search in his diaries. He wills his diaries to his brother, whose journals reflect his own torment and struggle to understand what Rachel did, what his father did and how to make sense of his own life.
It's a tough read all around, a really difficult book that will challenge readers' assumptions on many levels. Sansal offers us a glimpse into corners of French life rarely seen and into the hearts of two men who battle conflicts difficult to imagine. The brilliance of this book is how Sansal shows us how hard they fight for air, for understanding and for life even as the tides try to drown them. Rachel didn't make it, but there is some hope that Malrich will. In any case I think this is a really important, powerful book and one everyone should read.
I read it for the 2015 Europa Challenge.
FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.