EN,  Fiction

ذاكرة الجسد by Ahlam Mosteghanemi

Algeria! Disclaimer: I did not finish this book but put it away after reading about half of it – the following is tainted by my boredom with the story and the characters.

Is it Ahlem or Ahlam Mosteghanemi? The printing in my book says “Ahlem”, Goodreads says “Ahlam”, her website says “Ahlem”, her Twitter account says “Ahlam”. This is probably an issue of properly transcribing Arabic, but this difficulty of transcribing and translating Arabic into English is, I feel, representative for my entire experience with this book.

The book is told by an Armenian artist in Paris who paints with one arm because he lost one in the Algerian liberation war. He is telling the story to Hayat, his one true love, and also the daughter of one of his best comrades during the war.

My main confusion with the book: Hayat’s legal name is Ahlam; she is a writer; she has published a book called “The Curve of Forgetting” (one of Ahlam Mosteghanemi’s novels is called “The Art of Forgetting”). I am not sure whether this discrepancy is intended or due to different translations from Arabic but it seems pretty clear that Hayat/Ahlam in the book corresponds at least partly to the author. This would not be so weird if the narrator wasn’t telling the story to her (think “you were the most beautiful woman I ever came across”) and constantly praising her as if she was the next Jesus.

As I said above, I did not finish the book. About half-way through, I caught myself not really reading but just scanning the pages and thinking of other things while trying to get through the chapters as fast as possible. Neither the characters nor the story were able to mesmerize me – I randomly skipped forwards to different parts later in the book but it was all kind of the same as before. This book definitely was not for me; but this might be due to my own uninformedness when picking up the book. Judging only by the title, and looking at pictures of Constantine (which I highly recommend because it’s crazy and beautiful), I imagined some story set in the magical-looking city of Constantine. Ah, well.

Title of English translation: The Bridges of Constantine


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