“Harraga” by Boualem Sansal

HarragaSet in Algiers Harraga and tells the story of two strong but very different women living in a ferociously male-dominated world. One night, the reclusive Lamia hears a loud banging on her door. She opens it cautiously, trying not to think of who might be out there, to find Cherifa on her doorstep, all of five-foot nothing, seventeen, dressed like a disco queen, and five months’ pregnant. Lamia thinks the father is her wayward younger brother Sofiane, from whom she hasn’t heard in a long time. He has become a harraga – one of those, unable to make a living in Algeria, who seek economic asylum in Europe. Into Lamia’s life bursts a whirlwind of a girl, who never stops talking, who is seemingly unafraid of anyone, least of all of Blue Beard, as Lamia calls him, the disapproving fundamentalist who lives across the street. How these two women of such diametrically opposed temperaments manage to become friends, and what happens to them, is told in Lamia’s ironical, amusingly contemptuous and outraged voice.

Harraga is a powerful, often funny and ultimately extremely moving novel.

Boualem Sansal is the acclaimed the author of An Unfinished Business, which Bloomsbury published in 2010. His books have won many prizes, including France’s Prix du premier roman, Prix Michel Dard and the Grand Prix RTL-Lire, as well as the German Book Trade’s ‘Peace Prize’, which was presented at the 2011 Frankfurt Book Fair. His books are published by top publishers in seventeen languages throughout the world, including Gallimard in France, Merlin in German, Alianza in Spain, De Geus in Holland, Aschehoug in Norway and Einaudi in Italy. Sansal has also recently been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

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