Sunday, August 10, 2014

The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal

The German Mujahid
by Boualem Sansal
translated by Frank Wynne
5 stars - Wow!
ALR Blue

From the dust jacket:

Banned in Algeria, The German Mujahid is a groundbreaking novel. For the first time an Arab author directly addresses the moral implications of the Holocaust, drawing parallels between Nazism and Islamic fundamentalism.

The Schiller brothers were born in Algeria, separated by more than a decade. At a young age, they are sent to the ghettos of France to be raised by a loving uncle and his wife. Upon the death of their father, Rachel, the elder, discovers a box containing memorabilia which shows that their father was a Nazi war criminal. After Rachel's death by suicide, his brother, Malrich, inherits both the box and a diary left by Rachel which explains the effect of the discovery on him and his subsequent search for peace. Confused, enlightened, confounded, Malrich pens his own journal as he retraces his elder brother's footsteps through the history of the Holocaust and comes to his own conclusions about the similarities between the rise of Nazism and the stranglehold the Islamic fundamentalists have on his neighborhood.

Highly readable and very powerful. Rachel is the more reflective of the brothers. Once he knows that he is the son of a participant in the death camps, he is torn by the knowledge, devastated. His reflections become increasingly dark and filled with despair, yet chillingly true. 

I had been expecting some irrefutable line of reasoning, an alchemy of complex arguments, devastating revelations about a worldwide conspiracy against the German people, a chain reaction linking one chapter to the next, extraordinary circumstances skillfully orchestrated... But there was nothing. All it had taken for evil to triumph was a beardless, blustering soldier, a depressive, syphilitic housepainter, a few well-turned phrases, a muscular title - My Struggle - and a socioeconomic context that fostered grievances, condemnations, recriminations, and hyperbole.

Malrich, is a bit more pedestrian in his speech, yet he, too, suffers a personal crisis as he realizes the import of what is happening around him and confronts the local iman.

Yeah, well, fuck you, and you too, Emir! You want genocide? Well bring it on! Me and my mates, we'll be only too happy to roast some Nazi jihadist fuckers, and we'll invite all the kids on the estate to the barbecue.

In one journal entry, Rachel outlines the mechanics of the death camps. Both horrifying and fascinating. Genocide is not easily accomplished. Rounding up people, running the camps, killing, it was an undertaking of astounding scale and complexity. 

And here we have yet another example of the power of books, the power of ideas. The Algerian author, Boualem Sansal, was born in Algeria in 1949. At the age of 50, he retired from his job in the Algerian government and began writing. During the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Algeria, his writing turned to his country, to present the truth. Despite the controversy of his books, he continues to live in Algeria.

No one dreams of being a torturer, no one dreams of one day being a torture victim. Just as the sun releases its excesses of energy in sporadic sun spots, from time to time history releases the hatred humanity has accumulated in a scorching wind that sweeps away everything in its path. Chance decides whether one is here or there, protected or exposed, on this side of the channel or that.


  1. It sounds like the author has written things which need to be said. I'll look for this.

  2. Wow! This is one I've never even heard of, and that's unusual!