Hafid Bouazza is a self-assured writer with an exuberant style. His tendency to decorate the world with words and his refusal to do so with moderation are no mere quirks. This man has the subject, the palette and the flamboyant hand of a painter. In each of the eight stories a game is played with tradition. They are almost all set in the writer’s motherland and depict the waning power of the time-honoured authorities.
Gentlemen can only maintain their status with great difficulty, fathers withdraw-silently and frowning-into reading the Koran, adults commit sinful deeds among the trees and in dark corners, and women violate themselves with cucumbers and aubergines. The imams continue to utter the pious texts appropriate to their status as spiritual leaders but the children cannot help but notice that the lives they lead outside the mosque are far from pious and that when it comes to unseemly behaviour with boys, alcohol and women they are suspiciously well informed.
The story ‘Lord of the Flies’ is simply overwhelming. In it an entire village suffers under the weight of mysterious bad omens-wells that talk, dark shadows, a plague of flies-and is irreversibly sucked towards a blazing fate. Ten village elders die simultaneously from disappointment when their imam, who had been brought to the village as a saviour, is taken away by the gendarmes as a prisoner. Yet the funeral procession includes eleven biers: the left foot of the mysteriously vanished boy Abdullah lies on the last one.
This collection of stories can be seen as Bouazza’s farewell to his native country and his resounding entry into the language of his new homeland. Everything in and about this book is alive with promise.