Boualem Sansal: Harraga (Harraga)

The latest addition to my website is Boualem Sansal‘s Harraga (Harraga). Surprisingly enough for an Algerian novel novel this has been published in English and by a fairly mainstream publisher at that. It tells the story of Lamia, an unmarried thirty-five year old Algerian doctor, who lives on her own in the family house. One day there is a knock at the door and she is greeted by Chérifa, a very much pregnant sixteen-year old, who has been sent by Sofiane, Lamia’s younger brother, who disappeared a year ago, presumably to become a harraga, i.e. a migrant to Europe. Lamia soon takes on the role of surrogate mother but finds Chérifa’s ways difficult, not least because she is very untidy and also keeps disappearing for days at a time. Lamia manages to track her down, with some assistance, but they get on and then they quarrel and then she disappears again. Sansal tells an excellent story through the thoughts and views of Lamia, who is free and independent, but also cynical about her life and her country but eager to be a mother of a lost child.

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