Boualem Sansal in Frankfurt Book Fair 2011
15 October 1949
Théniet El Had, Tissemsilt, Algeria
|Period||1990s - ...|
|Notable works||The Barbarians' Oath (1999), An Unfinished Business (2008)|
Boualem Sansal (born 15 October 1949) is an Algerian author. In 2012, he was named winner of the Prix du roman arabe, but the prize money was withdrawn due to Sansal's visit to Israel to speak at the Jerusalem Writers Festival.
Boualem Sansal was born in Théniet El Had, Tissemsilt. Trained as an engineer with a doctorate in economics, he began writing novels at the age of 50 after retiring from his job as a high-ranking official in the Algerian government. The assassination of President Mohamed Boudiaf in 1992 and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Algeria inspired him to write about his country. Sansal continues to live with his wife and two daughters in Algeria despite the controversy his books have aroused in his homeland. At the 2007 International Festival of Literature in Berlin, he was introduced as a writer "exiled in his own country. " He claims that Algeria is becoming a bastion of Islamic extremism and the country is losing its intellectual and moral underpinnings.
Sansal's novel Le village de l'Allemand ou le journal des frères Schiller, is the story of two Algerian brothers who burrow into the past and discover that their father had been a Nazi officer who fled to Algeria after the war. The book explores the fine line between Islamic fundamentalism and Nazism. Le Village de l'allemand is the first of Sansal's novels to be translated into English, and was published in the US as The German Mujahid and in the UK as An Unfinished Business
Since the publication of Poste restante: Alger. Lettre de colère et d'espoir à mes compatriotes in 2006, Sansal's books have been banned in Algeria.
Awards and critical acclaim
Sansal writes in French and his work has won top literary awards in France, among them the Prix du Premier Roman in 1999. His debut novel was Le serment des Barbares (Gallimard, 1999), which has now been made into a film based on a screenplay by Jorge Semprún.
On 16 October 2011 Sansal received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. On 19 December 2011, he was announced as being on the jury for the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival, scheduled to be held in February 2012.
Sansal was the recipient of the 2012 Editions Gallimard Arabic Novel prize for his book "Rue Darwin." The prize is awarded by the Arab Ambassadors Council, based in Paris. However, after the Council learned that Sansal had attended the Jerusalem Writers Festival earlier in the year, they revoked the 15,000 euros prize money he had been slated to receive.
Commenting on the decision to withdraw the prize money, Sansal said it was “completely unacceptable”, adding that Arab countries – and his home country, Algeria, in particular – had "shut themselves in a prison of intolerance". France Culture radio director and head of the jury that awarded the prize, Olivier Poivre d’Avror, said before resigning his post in protest, the prize money had been withdrawn as a “sordid” consequence of Hamas pressure. “Between being nominated for the prize and actually receiving it, Boualem Sansal visited Israel … Hamas immediately issued a statement calling his presence an act of treason against the Palestinians. The reaction of Arab Ambassadors Council was a direct result of this.” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman urged the international community to denounce the boycott against Sansal.
A spokeswoman for the Arab Ambassadors Council claimed the council’s decision had not been influenced by the Hamas statement on the matter.
Sansal said he does not regret visiting Israel, stating, "I am glad I visited Israel and returned with great happiness." Sansal also said that "Israelis have all the reasons in the world to be proud of what they have achieved in their country in such a short period of time...In so many fields, Israel is at the international forefront and it is very impressive." Sansal also said that he was moved by Liberman's support, and, "His statement was so gracious in comparison to Arab governments. He told them: 'You're persecuting intellectuals. We embrace them and care for their safety. That is why your citizens are rebelling against you.' That is a harsh blow to Arab governments." Sansal criticized Hamas as well, saying that it was a terrorist movement that "has taken Gazans hostage. It has taken Islam hostage."
- 1999: Le Serment des barbares, Gallimard. Prix du Premier Roman 1999. Prix Tropiques, AFD, 1999
- 2000: L'Enfant fou de l'arbre creux, Gallimard. Prix Michel Dard
- 2003: Dis-moi le paradis, Gallimard
- 2005: Harraga, Gallimard. English edition, 2014 by Bloomsbury, translated by Frank Wynne
- 2008: Le village de l'Allemand ou le journal des frères Schiller, Gallimard. Grand prix RTL-Lire 2008, Grand prix de la francophonie bestowed by the Académie française 2008 -Prix Nessim Habif- (Académie royale de langue et de littérature françaises de Belgique). translated by Frank Wynne and published in the US as The German Mujahid (2009) and in the UK as An Unfinished Business
- 2011: Rue Darwin, Gallimard
- 2015: 2084: La fin du monde, Gallimard. Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française
- 2001: La voix, Gallimard-Le Monde
- 2005: La vérité est dans nos amours perdues, in "Des nouvelles d'Algérie", ed Métailié
- 2004: La Femme sans nom. Littera et l’Aube.
- 2005: Homme simple cherche évènement heureux, Le Monde.
- 2005: Tous les bonheurs ne valent pas le déplacement, Magazine des Beaux Arts.
- 2006: La Terrible nouvelle. Le Monde.
- 2006: Poste restante: Alger, lettre de colère et d'espoir à mes compatriotes, Gallimard
- 2007: Petit éloge de la mémoire, Gallimard
1986: La Combustion dans les turboréacteurs, OPU, Alger. 1989: La Mesure de la productivité, OPU, Alger
- Fiske, Gavriel (2012-06-30). "Award-winning Algerian author denied cash prize for visiting Israel". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 2013-05-29.
- Bay Area Francophile List This Week!
- culturebase.net | The international artist database | Boualem Sansal
- Standing fast, by Avirama Golan, Haaretz
- "Algerischer Autor Sansal erhält Friedenspreis". Zeit Online (in German). 9 June 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
- "Berlinale 2012: International Jury". berlinale.de. 2011-12-19. Retrieved 2011-12-21.
- "Award-winning Algerian author denied cash prize for visiting Israel". Times of Israel. 30 June 2012. Retrieved 30 June 2012.
- "Arab countries withdraw prize reward for novelist who visited Israel". France 24. 22 June 2012. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
- Lopez, Luisita. "International News - The New York Times". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2013-05-29.
- "Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française : Kaddour et Sansal ex aequo". Le Point (in French). October 29, 2015. Retrieved November 28, 2015.
- Haaretz weekend magazine interview with Sansal publish on October 5, 2012 
- Interview with the Algerian Novelist Boualem Sansal: "There Are Parallels between Islamism and National Socialism"
- German Peace Prize for Boualem Sansal: A Good, Cowardly Choice