The Lovers of Algeria A Novel

Anouar Benmalek; Translated from the French by Joanna Kilmartin

Graywolf Press




288 Pages



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A Lannan Translation Series Selection

From a widely acclaimed French novelist somes this breathless story of love and survival in war-torn Algeria—both past and present.

Nine-year-old Jallal is old enough to know that his life in Algeria is precarious at best. Having run away from home, he survives by selling peanuts and single cigarettes on the street. The proposal by the elderly Swiss woman named Anna is shocking and preposterous: go to the mountains with her, as a translator, so she can find her lost lover from decades ago and pray over the graves of their murdered children.

Anna and Jallal's journey is wrought with danger and unspeakable tragedy. It was under similar circumstances that Anna first met the Arab Nasreddine. Ousted from the traveling circus where she performed as a trapeze artist, she had little choice but to accept Nasreddine's dangerous offer to live with him in a makeshift tent. But it was here, amid poverty, racism, and terrifyingly random violence, that they fell in love.

A bestseller in France, The Lovers of Algeria is an unflinchingly candid story about a country where terrorism and government corruption are commonplace. As Anna and Nasreddine, beaten by time and memory, circle each other in Algeria, author Benmalek shows with heart-wrenching detail that love can endure even the most inhuman conditions.


Praise for The Lovers of Algeria

"I was swept along by the beautifully constructed story of Anna and Nasreddine, whose love survives a half century of war and terror in post-colonial Algeria. Benmalek is a master of the poetics of separation."—Alice Kaplan

"A captivating novel . . . Benmalek's disjointed, dream-like treatment of time and his interweaving of romance and turbulent history will remind readers of Michael Ondaatje."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Solid, engaging, and agonizingly brutal."—Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Anouar Benmalek; Translated from the French by Joanna Kilmartin

  • Anouar Benmalek was born in Casablanca in 1956 and now lives in France. After the 1988 riots in Algeria, in protest of government policies, he became one of the founders of the Algerian Committee Against Torture. Benmalek has published several other books.