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Bab el-Oued [a novel]

Merzak Allouache, translated by Angela M. Brewer
Bab el-Oued [a novel]
ISBN: 978-0-89410-859-4
ISBN: 978-0-89410-860-0
1998/134 pages/LC: 98-38470

"[Bab el-Oued] is not simply the story of the Bab el-Oued district, but also the story of contemporary postcolonial Algeria.... Algeria's national and cultural problems are translated in this novel into the daily feelings and concerns of its complex characters."—Sarra Tlili, MESA Bulletin

"Deftly surveys the embattled populace of a poor section of Algiers ruled by a platitudinous and ingenuous 'Imam' and rife with both sexual tension and militant Islamic political activity."—Kirkus Reviews


Bored housewives, kept in seclusion, smuggling in Harlequin romances. Modish young men transformed into Islamic militants. A baker unwittingly caught in a web of intrigue, an imam whose faith is tested by urban corruption, a lonely divorcee accused of prostitution—all take part in Merzak Allouache's novel of a society on the brink of crisis.

Allouache tells the story of the people of Bab el-Oued, a poor neighborhood in contemporary Algiers. His experience as a filmmaker lends the work a cinematic quality, bringing it vibrantly and immediately to life. Bab el-Oued's memorable characters draw us into their world. Entering their lives, we come to appreciate the human costs of economic and political decline, and also to understand something of the reasons underlying the power of new and violent forms of Islamic militancy.

"I wrote this book," said Algerian director Merzak Allouache, "to exorcise the many frustrations that arose when making the film Bab el-Oued City in Algiers. Writing the book gave me a sense of freedom not possible with the constraints of the camera, especially when shooting in a hostile environment, as was the case there." Bab el-Oued City, released to wide acclaim in 1993, is Allouache's fifth full-length film. He now lives in France.


Angela M. Brewer, a professional linguist and literary translator, spent her early years in the Middle East, where she has traveled widely. She now lives in Western Europe.
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