Bored housewives, kept in seclusion, smuggling in Harlequin romances. Young men transformed from thugs in jeans and tee-shirts into Islamic militants in beards and flowing white robes. A baker unwittingly caught in a web of intrigue, an imam whose faith is tested by urban corruption, a lonely divorcee accused of prostitution – all take part in Merzak Allouache’s compelling novel of a society on the brink of crisis.
Allouache tells the story of the people of Bab el-Oued, a poor neighborhood in contemporary Algiers. His experience as a filmmaker lends the work a cinematic quality, bringing it vibrantly and immediately to life. Bab el-Oued‘s memorable characters draw us into their world. Entering their lives, we come to appreciate the human costs of economic and political decline, and also to understand something of the reasons underlying the power of new and violent forms of Islamic militancy.
“I worte this book,” said Algerian director Merzak Allouache, “to exorcise the many frustrations that arose when making the film Bab el-Oued City in Algiers. Writing the book gave me a sense of freedom not possible with the constraints of the camera, especially when shooting in a hostile environment, as was the case there.” Bab el-Oued City, released to wide acclaim in 1993, is Allouache’s fifth full-lenght film. He now lives in France.