Earlier this week, one of France’s top literary prizes — the Renaudot — announced the 16 novels longlisted for their 2019 award. Among them was Kaouther Adimi’s Les petits de Décembre, which is also a finalist for this year’s Prix de la Littérature Arabe:
The celebrated young Algerian author has, as yet, not been translated to English. But New Directions recently announced that they are bringing out her Nos Richesses — which was longlisted for the 2017 Interallié, the 2017 Médicis, the 2017 Goncourt, and the 2017 Renaudot — next year as Our Riches, in Chris Andrews’ translation.
Adimi was born in Algiers in 1986 and moved, as a young girl, to live in France. But she returned to Algeria in 1994 and began to write seriously as a university student. She published her first novel, L’envers des autres, in 2009, which was also when she moved to Paris. Since then, she has brought out several more novels, including Des pierres dans ma poche, Le Sixième Œuf, Nos richesses, and her latest, Les petits de Décembre.
According to our Algeria editor Nadia Ghanem, Nos richnesses encompasses the “fictionalized journal of Edmont Charlot, Algeria’s famous librarian on Algiers’ Hamani Street, who edited, during colonization, the first works of many a writer of Mouloud Feroun and Garcia Lorca’s cut.”
From New Directions:
Our Riches interweaves Charlot’s story with that of another twenty-year-old, Ryad (dispatched in 2017 to empty the old shop and repaint it). Ryad’s no booklover, but old Abdallah, the bookshop’s self-appointed, nearly illiterate guardian, opens the young man’s mind. Cutting brilliantly from Charlot to Ryad, from the 1930s to current times, from WWII to the bloody 1961 Free Algeria demonstrations in Paris, Adimi delicately packs a monumental history of intense political drama into her swift and poignant novel. But most of all, it’s a hymn to the book and to the love of books.
There is nothing out yet in English, at least that I could find, but you can read an excerpt of Our Riches on Specimen, in both French and in Italian translation. It opens:
Dès votre arrivée à Alger, il vous faudra prendre les rues en pente, les monter puis les descendre. Vous tomberez sur Didouche-Mourad, traversée par de nombreuses ruelles comme par une centaine d’histoires, à quelques pas d’un pont que se partagent suicidés et amoureux.
You can continue reading in either language at Specimen.
The New Directions edition, in Andrews’ English translation, is currently set for an April 28, 2020 release.