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Across three generations, three wars, two continents, and the mythic waters of the Mediterranean, one family's history leads to an inevitable question: What price do our descendants pay for the choices that we make? Naïma knows Algeria only by the artifacts she encounters in her grandparents' tiny apartment in Normandy: the language her grandmother speaks but Naïma can't u Across three generations, three wars, two continents, and the mythic waters of the Mediterranean, one family's history leads to an inevitable question: What price do our descendants pay for the choices that we make? Naïma knows Algeria only by the artifacts she encounters in her grandparents' tiny apartment in Normandy: the language her grandmother speaks but Naïma can't understand, the food her grandmother cooks, and the precious things her grandmother carried when they fled. Naïma's father claims to remember nothing; he has made himself French. Her grandfather died before he could tell her his side of the story. But now Naïma will travel to Algeria to see for herself what was left behind--including their secrets. The Algerian War for Independence sent Naïma's grandfather on a journey of his own, from wealthy olive grove owner and respected veteran of the First World War, to refugee spurned as a harki by his fellow Algerians in the transit camps of southern France, to immigrant barely scratching out a living in the north. The long battle against colonial rule broke apart communities, opened deep rifts within families, and saw the whims of those in even temporary power instantly overturn the lives of ordinary people. Where does Naïma's family fit into this history? How do they fit into France's future? Alice Zeniter's The Art of Losing is a powerful, moving family novel that spans three generations across seventy years and two shores of the Mediterranean Sea. It is a resonant people's history of Algeria and its diaspora. It is a story of how we carry on in the face of loss: loss of country, identity, language, connection. Most of all, it is an immersive, riveting excavation of the inescapable legacies of colonialism, immigration, family, and war.


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Across three generations, three wars, two continents, and the mythic waters of the Mediterranean, one family's history leads to an inevitable question: What price do our descendants pay for the choices that we make? Naïma knows Algeria only by the artifacts she encounters in her grandparents' tiny apartment in Normandy: the language her grandmother speaks but Naïma can't u Across three generations, three wars, two continents, and the mythic waters of the Mediterranean, one family's history leads to an inevitable question: What price do our descendants pay for the choices that we make? Naïma knows Algeria only by the artifacts she encounters in her grandparents' tiny apartment in Normandy: the language her grandmother speaks but Naïma can't understand, the food her grandmother cooks, and the precious things her grandmother carried when they fled. Naïma's father claims to remember nothing; he has made himself French. Her grandfather died before he could tell her his side of the story. But now Naïma will travel to Algeria to see for herself what was left behind--including their secrets. The Algerian War for Independence sent Naïma's grandfather on a journey of his own, from wealthy olive grove owner and respected veteran of the First World War, to refugee spurned as a harki by his fellow Algerians in the transit camps of southern France, to immigrant barely scratching out a living in the north. The long battle against colonial rule broke apart communities, opened deep rifts within families, and saw the whims of those in even temporary power instantly overturn the lives of ordinary people. Where does Naïma's family fit into this history? How do they fit into France's future? Alice Zeniter's The Art of Losing is a powerful, moving family novel that spans three generations across seventy years and two shores of the Mediterranean Sea. It is a resonant people's history of Algeria and its diaspora. It is a story of how we carry on in the face of loss: loss of country, identity, language, connection. Most of all, it is an immersive, riveting excavation of the inescapable legacies of colonialism, immigration, family, and war.

30 review for The Art of Losing

  1. 5 out of 5

    Anya

    “The art of losing isn’t hard to master; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster… I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster, some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent. I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.” “L’Art de perdre” is a beautifully written, extremely touching novel about three generations of (Franco-)Algerians and their experiences with war, immigration and cultural adaptation. There are many novels that have been written on all three of “The art of losing isn’t hard to master; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster… I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster, some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent. I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.” “L’Art de perdre” is a beautifully written, extremely touching novel about three generations of (Franco-)Algerians and their experiences with war, immigration and cultural adaptation. There are many novels that have been written on all three of these subjects, however, this is a truly special novel that appeals on so many levels. To begin with, the novel describes the many historical events that impacted the lives of Algerians over the last 100 years; i.e., the World Wars, colonialism, the independence movement in Algeria, and mass-emigration/ the interim refugee camp period in France. I really felt that I gained a far deeper understanding of modern Algerian history from reading the novel. The novel also provides a very touching multi-generational viewpoint on immigration and cultural adaptation. In part one, we gain the perspective of the first-generation immigrant and family patriarch, Ali. In part two, we learn more about the trials of Ali’s son Hamid, who is something between a first and second-generation immigrant (having moved to France at a young age, but still feeling the pull of his roots). Finally, in part three, we learn the point of view of Naima, Hamid’s daughter, the second-generation immigrant whose understanding of Algeria (for most of the novel) is more-or-less restricted to her Grandmother. The stories of Ali, Hamid and Naima are beautifully written, incredibly touching and capture very well the experience of these three immigrant groups. As an immigrant myself (a Hamid-type immigrant), this book really resonated with me. It must also be said that at a certain point in the novel, the book became simply unputdownable and I ended up devouring the rest of it within a few days. I ended the novel in tears, with images from the novel still playing in closed-loop in my head. This was without a doubt the best book I have read all year and I have been recommending it enthusiastically to all of my Francophone friends.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jenni

    I was a bit hesitant to pick this up because in the past, French literature and I have not been the best of friends. Sure, I've read some, but never really liked anything (more like, usually disliked what I've made myself read). But this book, oh my. I wanted to devour it all at once and savor it for as long as I could. This novel tells the story of three generations, from Algeria to France. From being someone important and respected to being someone looked down upon to being someone who's there I was a bit hesitant to pick this up because in the past, French literature and I have not been the best of friends. Sure, I've read some, but never really liked anything (more like, usually disliked what I've made myself read). But this book, oh my. I wanted to devour it all at once and savor it for as long as I could. This novel tells the story of three generations, from Algeria to France. From being someone important and respected to being someone looked down upon to being someone who's there but people don't really know what to think of them - nor do they themselves know. This is a story about war and finding peace, a story about finding oneself, a story about cultures, a story about immigration, a story about art. While this was for the most part a story about men and how they've lived through the years, I was pleased that the women were also fleshed out, they had a story - at least Naïma. I admit I know very little about French history and its colonialist past, so this was a great history lesson in that through the eyes of those on the receiving end. It's also more topical and current than you'd expect from a mostly historical novel: it deals with the theme of immigration, racism, people's attitudes and shows you how little has actually changed over the years. (And it's not always certain those changes are for the better.) There is some underlying politics stuff that I kind of wish had been discussed more - mostly because, again, I know next to nothing about this topic. But it also works like this, you can always look up things yourself and read more. In the end, I see this as a book about identity. Deep down it tries to answer the question of who you are, how you see yourself and how other see you, why are those things different and why it matters. This is a gem of a book and I fear it'll go unnoticed by many. Let's face it, the past few years have seen a flood of novels with themes similar to this. However, I do feel this stands out. Give it a chance. You'll be rewarded.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Raina

    Some sections of really great writing, but in general, I found "The Art of Losing" to be slow and unengaging. It took me forever to get through this one. I think the main problem stems from the narrator, who feels too distant and removed and cold so that you don't really ever feel for the characters or become engaged in their story. Some sections of really great writing, but in general, I found "The Art of Losing" to be slow and unengaging. It took me forever to get through this one. I think the main problem stems from the narrator, who feels too distant and removed and cold so that you don't really ever feel for the characters or become engaged in their story.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eudokia Tr

    This book has great messages, given in a very superficial manner. Too much chatter, did't like it. This book has great messages, given in a very superficial manner. Too much chatter, did't like it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Hiroto

    Excellent.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Paul Norwood

    What happens to the losers? No, not those losers, not the charismatic underdogs. I mean the loyalists of the American revolution, and here the Algerians who resisted the rise of the FLN and then found that France didn't really love them, in fact, that France grudgingly took in the pieds-noirs and then tried to stem the influx of Harki and other France-friendly Algerians. This novel does an incredible job of describing an intergenerational refugee story, and would help any francophile develop a b What happens to the losers? No, not those losers, not the charismatic underdogs. I mean the loyalists of the American revolution, and here the Algerians who resisted the rise of the FLN and then found that France didn't really love them, in fact, that France grudgingly took in the pieds-noirs and then tried to stem the influx of Harki and other France-friendly Algerians. This novel does an incredible job of describing an intergenerational refugee story, and would help any francophile develop a better understanding of a large and important part of the French population. The human sense of place is well developed, and the sense of inability to fully grasp the situation is also well conveyed. In one passage, a character even warns herself against teleological retelling of the events. The novel itself is split into three parts, the first one being in Algeria, the second detailing the original refugee experience, and the third getting into assimilation and the generation born in France. I was happy to see that the third part did not skimp and rush to close lose ends. In the third part everything expands, more challenges come up, and a meeting with a childhood friend fizzles into thin air in the most fantastic way. One of the characters stands in the courtyard at night and pees herself, in what is perhaps the best-written scene in the entire book (hard to understand, perhaps, if you're not familiar with Parisian buildings where the cheap studios don't have toilets and people use shared, Turkish-style toilets instead). Here's an example of a passage that takes flight:"Au fur et a mesure que le soleil empate ses pensees, des elements absurdes et colores viennent perturber les phrases peniblement preparees et celles-ci eclatent et se dissolvent en violettes, en dinosaures ou en ponts suspendus." (sorry about no accents). Most of the writing is plot-driven and dialogue rich, straight-forward but effective. The "you can't go home again" final section is full of wisdom, and again the book goes from place to place without any filler or disappointment.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Finish date: 27.November 2017 Genre: fiction Rating: C Review: Three generations.... Part 1 - Grandfather (Ali) flees Algeria 1962 Part 2 - Father (Hamid) : refuses to discuss his past. France did not open its doors….only the gates of an encampment Part 3 - Daughter (Naïma): returns to Algeria to discover her identity. Strong point: Algerian conflict/consequences at a very personal level Strong point: very easy to read....'every day French' Weak point: collapses in part 2...I had to push myself to get th Finish date: 27.November 2017 Genre: fiction Rating: C Review: Three generations.... Part 1 - Grandfather (Ali) flees Algeria 1962 Part 2 - Father (Hamid) : refuses to discuss his past. France did not open its doors….only the gates of an encampment Part 3 - Daughter (Naïma): returns to Algeria to discover her identity. Strong point: Algerian conflict/consequences at a very personal level Strong point: very easy to read....'every day French' Weak point: collapses in part 2...I had to push myself to get through it. Weak point: could have been 200 pg. shorter...sometimes less is more. Trivia: Awarded Prix Goncourt des lycéens 2017

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I have no idea why it wasn't already on my goodreads but gosh, this really is one of my favourites. I have no idea why it wasn't already on my goodreads but gosh, this really is one of my favourites.

  9. 4 out of 5

    safiyareads

    This is a monumental multigenerational story that sensitively brings to the forefront an aspect of Algerian history that is often surrounded by silence. The story begins in Algeria, before the War of Independence and moves to France, spanning decades, eventually bringing the reader to the present day. There are three focal characters, one from each generation. Ali is the patriarch of his family and is the one whose choice transforms the fate of his family. Hamid, his son, is faced with the conse This is a monumental multigenerational story that sensitively brings to the forefront an aspect of Algerian history that is often surrounded by silence. The story begins in Algeria, before the War of Independence and moves to France, spanning decades, eventually bringing the reader to the present day. There are three focal characters, one from each generation. Ali is the patriarch of his family and is the one whose choice transforms the fate of his family. Hamid, his son, is faced with the consequences of this without ever knowing what his father did. Met only by silence, his relationship with his father becomes hostile. Finally, there is Naïma, Hamid’s daughter, of mixed heritage who knows next to nothing about Algeria and returns to the old country in search of some connection. In 1962, after a brutal war of over seven years, leaving the country with wounds that would never fully heal, Algeria gained independence. As the green and white flags with a red star and crescent were flying, Ali and his family were fleeing to France. In this story, the war of independence is seen through a very specific lens; that of the harkis. Harkis were those who collaborated with the French during the war, in any capacity. In short, the term is synonymous with ‘traitor’. Ali was a harki, and by default, his family and his descendants are too. The term is all encompassing and this story powerfully portrayed the impact of this on the generations that follow. Ali was a veteran of the Second World War, fighting with the allied armies in Italy. This ultimately led him to the situation through which he would become a harki. We never know the circumstances under which Ali enlists in WWII (given that many Algerians were forced to, this is a possibility) and this was a frustrating gap for me because of how significant it was. Ali’s reasons for collaborating during the Revolution, were out of fear for his own safety, and a number of events lead to this. It was never a choice for Ali between Algeria and France. For him, it was a choice that was solely about his family’s safety. This story was not about conveying that this was the case with all harkis, but it shows how at the time, in the moment, things are not black and white. Only when they become history are they portrayed in certain ways. Once something becomes history, it is nigh on impossible to really know what happened. Ali’s character demonstrated the manner in which silence surrounds the history of harkis. The author powerfully highlighted the fact that silence allows others to ascribe what they wish. Ali’s silence regarding WWII was a sign of the horror that he endured (heroically) whereas his silence around the War of Independence, his role as a harki, is down to his shame as a traitor. When the family reach France, they, along with all the other harkis, are placed into camps where they are kept completely separate from the rest of the French population. What this story did extremely well was to shed a light on the experiences in these camps and France’s treatment of the harkis in general. The harkis are given ‘French citizenship’ yet they are treated worse than second class. The camps only closed in the mid-seventies after uprisings and hostage situations forcing France to finally try to ‘integrate’ them. For the harkis, their rejection is two-fold. They are rejected by Algeria and never truly accepted by France. On this topic, Zeniter touched on some familiar concepts like ‘the good immigrant’. In many of their interactions with French administration, harkis are commended for loving France, for choosing France – for this is the only basis on which they will be accepted in the slightest. This simplistic view takes away from the individuals and the choices they made, the vast range of levels of their actions. From many in the camps who don’t see themselves as traitors, to one who assisted the French army in torturing Algerians. The young ones, including Hamid, are told to forget about Algeria. With no explanation of what happened, and with no understanding, this is what Hamid does or rather, he seems to come to resent it. Instead, he puts all his energy into trying to embrace and integrate into French society. Although the story focuses on the perspective of this one family, and the experiences of harkis, Zeniter managed to give a sense of some of the atrocities committed by the French army during the war. Even so, this book is not a holistic look at the war and that’s something readers should bear in mind. I also strongly recommend being prepared to google while reading this book. Zeniter included many real historical details from start to finish (something that deeply enriched the story for me and I highly commend her for this) and they were touched on to varying degrees. In the cases where certain facts were mentioned in passing, if the reader isn’t aware of the history, then the significance of it being bought up in the context may be missed. There would be a lot to be gained and understood in doing a quick google along the way. Naïma’s part of the story evoked some mixed feelings in me. Although her journey offered some of the most thoughtful insights into life for North Africans in France, it was also the section of the book where a couple of points troubled me. For the most part, from the beginning of the story, the FLN (National Liberation Front) are spoken of in a generally neutral tone, perhaps ambivalent at times. This didn’t surprise me as the story was geared from the perspective of harkis and is why I would say to be aware of this angle when reading the story. However, towards the end of the book, the was mention of (it was a valid and interesting point in itself) a tactic used by the FLN. The continuation of this was to discuss that ISIS and Al Qaeda have used the same tactic. The comparison, the mention of these terrorist groups, was alarming and unnecessary in the context. It was even more an issue for me because it wasn’t the character’s view being expressed, instead it was the omnipresent narrator’s anecdote. Upon Naïma’s ‘return’ to Algeria there was also some annoying moments. The referral of a woman in niqab as Batman of the mountains, laughing at her, and Naïma later wondering whether a little girl will become a Batman of the mountains when she is older. Naïma expressing disdain for this, and the general customs regarding women in the rural area. It was uncomfortable to read these occurrences as it felt very much like French civilised woman judging backwards locals. The woman wearing niqab wasn’t given any freewill by Naïma, she didn’t allow for the possibility that she wanted to wear it, only that she was wearing it because it was expected of her. Both could be true. Despite those rare moments when I had an issue with the book, on the whole it was an extremely enlightening read which I learned and gained a lot from. Not only from the historical facts seamlessly incorporated into the story, but also from the profound discussion around race, belonging, immigration and society, which were woven in throughout. I was so often rereading a passage, underling a sentence and pondering what I had just read that I can honestly say this book is well worth a read. Lovers of generational stories, historical fiction, particularly Algerian history, will certainly gain a lot from this book, even with my few perceived flaws of it. I’m so glad this was translated into English! Many thanks to Picador Books for the proof copy for review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Veronica

    The main interest of this book for me was the fact that it's about the Algerian conflict of 1962 and its repercussions, told through the stories of three generations of a family of harkis (indigenous Algerians considered to have collaborated with the French colonisers). While I'm obviously aware of this part of French history I didn't know about it in detail. Ali, the father, leaves in 1962 with his family, out of fear for his life (his collaboration consists of having fought in the French army i The main interest of this book for me was the fact that it's about the Algerian conflict of 1962 and its repercussions, told through the stories of three generations of a family of harkis (indigenous Algerians considered to have collaborated with the French colonisers). While I'm obviously aware of this part of French history I didn't know about it in detail. Ali, the father, leaves in 1962 with his family, out of fear for his life (his collaboration consists of having fought in the French army in WWII, and subsequently accepting a war pension). The family first ends up in one of the camps harkis were confined to in metropolitan France (a fate not visited upon the wealthier pieds noirs who by and large had some resources and families to fall back on even if they had lost everything in Algeria) before ending up living in a remote harki settlement in a forest where Ali works as a woodcutter. Later they move to a drab housing estate in Normandy. Ali's son Hamid is promising at school, urged by Ali to better himself, becomes a civil servant, and marries a French woman. His story of gradual integration takes up the second section of the book. Finally, Naima, his daughter, is the subject of the third part. I found myself absorbed by the first two parts despite some longueurs, but Naima's section was considerably less compelling. The novel is clearly based on Zeniter's own background, giving her story considerable force and personal feeling. I found her narrative technique a little odd at times. In the first two parts, as well as straightforward third-person narration, we sometimes get Naima remembering things or recounting stories she's been told. But who is the narrative "je" who occasionally intervenes the rest of the time? The book group discussion was made more interesting by one of our members being a pied noir who had left in 1962 when she was 12. The book aroused vivid childhood memories and tears. So on that basis I'd say this is an even-handed and powerful account of the damage that colonisation and decolonisation does to individual lives ... and also of how people survive and change.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bagus

    “What is not passed on is lost, that’s all there is to it. You come from here, but this is not your home.” L’art de perdre or The Art of Losing begins with Naïma’s journey in search of her roots back in Algeria. Her insatiable curiosity to cross the Mediterranean finally recalled back the family history far before the independence of Algeria in 1962. The story did not begin with Naïma, and we will get to see the past, present and future of displacements caused by centuries of French coloniali “What is not passed on is lost, that’s all there is to it. You come from here, but this is not your home.” L’art de perdre or The Art of Losing begins with Naïma’s journey in search of her roots back in Algeria. Her insatiable curiosity to cross the Mediterranean finally recalled back the family history far before the independence of Algeria in 1962. The story did not begin with Naïma, and we will get to see the past, present and future of displacements caused by centuries of French colonialism in Algeria, the Second World War, the Algerian War for Independence which was fought between 1954 and 1962. This is a really unique historical fiction written from French perspective that could trace the lines of complexities in the legacies of French Algeria beyond the common perception of pieds-noirs. The book is divided into three parts: (i) Papa’s Algeria, (ii) Cold France, (iii) A Moveable Feast. Each of the three parts tell unique perspective of a Kabylian family who has to face displacement due to the end of French colonial rule in Algeria, spanning to three generations. The first part mainly tells the story from the viewpoint of Ali, Naïma’s Kabylian grandfather, whose status rapidly changed from a wartime hero who fought alongside de Gaulle’s Free France military forces during World War II to become a traitor hunted by the National Liberation Front of Algeria (FLN). But then, the family’s migration into France did not end well with the harsh treatment they had to face in the refugee camp. The Harkis (Algerian who fought alongside the French Army) created complexities of displacement in France that will invoke further crisis in the twenty-first century, with frequent associations of the Muslim migrants with terrorist movements. To bring Naïma, a character with dual heritage who has an Algerian father (Hamid) and a French mother (Clarisse), as our main focus in this book is a unique way to touch this issue. Alice Zeniter presents us with many issues that are highly relevant to our daily life now, with common perception in the West about African migrants especially the Muslim fundamentalists who might pose threats to order. She paints the story as Naïma who struggles to define her identity embarks on a journey to the Algeria that never was, that her father tries so hard to forget, that her grandfather left for his family’s life. Her question haunts the whole story: “Is it possible to lose a country, to lose something that we never hold onto before?” This is the kind of book that makes me ponder even long after finishing it, as the details invoke more questions to me about the state of Algerian migrants in France and people with dual heritage who descend from them. Alice’s novel is full of facts that seem so vivid that it was not hard for me to imagine Ali fought his way out of Kabylia, or Hamid’s struggles to set up his position as a young Algerian in a France that was still hostile to immigrants in the 1960s, or even Naïma’s confusion as she traces the lines of ‘familiar-yet-unfamiliar’ faces of Algeria where her roots came from. Alice Zeniter has written a beautiful novel, that is as beautiful as the poem by Elizabeth Bishop from which the title of this book originates from. The art of losing isn’t hard to master; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster. Lose something every day. Accept the fluster of lost door keys, the hour badly spent. The art of losing isn’t hard to master. Then practice losing farther, losing faster: places, and names, and where it was you meant to travel. None of these will bring disaster. I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or next-to-last, of three loved houses went. The art of losing isn’t hard to master. I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster, some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent. I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster. —Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident the art of losing’s not too hard to master though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster. (Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art” from The Complete Poems 1927-1979) === I received the Advance Reader Copy from Farrar, Straus and Giroux through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Antenna

    This saga covering three generations of an Algerian Kabyle family whose lives are torn apart by the struggle for independence from colonial rule which forces their reluctant migration to a France prepared to give them only a grudging reception, provides the clearest insight into a piece of recent history for which the repercussions still make an impact. The novel begins and ends with Naïma, the superficially liberated young woman employed in a Parisian gallery selling modern art. From the outset This saga covering three generations of an Algerian Kabyle family whose lives are torn apart by the struggle for independence from colonial rule which forces their reluctant migration to a France prepared to give them only a grudging reception, provides the clearest insight into a piece of recent history for which the repercussions still make an impact. The novel begins and ends with Naïma, the superficially liberated young woman employed in a Parisian gallery selling modern art. From the outset she appears unfocused, continually feeling that her life is out of control. This seems in part due to her ignorance about the “real” Algeria, of which relatives old enough to remember living there are remarkably reluctant to talk, the lack of French being a further barrier in some cases. The book is divided into three parts, one for each generation. Returning from military service in France during World War Two, Naïma’s impoverished grandfather Ali comes across an olive press which he can use to establish a successful business, making his family one of the two richest in his village. Wary of independence movements like the ruthless FLN, Ali has no desire to collaborate with the French soldiers trying to maintain security, but when a colleague is murdered for having continued to accept a pension from France for his war service, Ali knows he no longer has a choice. The most minimal degree of cooperation with the French falsely brands Ali as a “Harki” (one of the native Algerians who fought for France in the War of Independence from 1954 to 1962), so that eventually emigration to France seems the only option. Part Two covers Ali’s experience of making a living in France, stripped of his prosperity and status, segregated in a forest lumber camp or a grim urban apartment block, sadly estranged from his bright eldest son Hamid who takes the first opportunity to abandon what seem like the shackles of his Kabyle identity, even to the point of marrying a French girl. In Part Three, a work project provides the impetus for Naïma, who is one of Hamid’s daughters, to cross the Mediterranean to visit Algeria for herself. Will it be dangerous to visit the isolated village where some relatives still live? Will she be accepted? Will anything remain of the old way of life? Can she gain any emotional relief from her new experiences? Immersed as I was in this long novel, some sentences seem too protracted and complicated, a measure perhaps of the author’s obvious intellect, as she explores in depth her characters’ varied and multi-faceted motivations and reactions to events. Alice Zeniter’s heritage as the descendant of a Harki, with an Algerian father and French mother, enables her to provide the vital hallmark of authenticity, although I have heard her declare in an interview that she does not identify particularly with Naïma, but prefers as an author to observe all her characters objectively from a slight distance. The author is a gifted story-teller, with the power to convey a strong sense of place, and to develop realistic characters. I liked the well-chosen quotations at the start of each section (“Les jeunes n’accepteront plus ce que les parents ont accepté” – “Il n’est pas de famille qui ne soit le lieu d’un conflit de civilisations”), and the snippets of history, fruit of her obviously thorough research, are useful in explaining the background. The many different and shifting viewpoints are woven skilfully into the story, to help one understand the choices people made and the price they paid for this in each case. The title is taken, perhaps surprisingly, from the French translation of a poem by the American poet Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art”, which contains the lines: “The art of losing isn’t hard to master. I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster, some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent. I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.” As an Algerian friend tells Naïma, “You can come to a country without belonging to it…You can lose a country…..Don’t play at being an Algerian if you don’t want to come back to Algeria, What would be the point of that? This is the kind of novel one is sad to finish, which stays in the mind and influences one’s thinking on a subject.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Damien Travel

    In « L’Art de Perdre » (« The Art of Losing », not yet translated in English), Alice Zeniter gives voice to the « harkis » and their history. « Harki » is the name given to Algerians who, by explicit choice or not, took the French side during the Independence War. Ali, the grand-father, was a leader in his village in Kabylie where he was producing olive oil. He had served in the French army at the battle of Monte Cassino during World War II. He came back with a medal and enjoyed meeting the vete In « L’Art de Perdre » (« The Art of Losing », not yet translated in English), Alice Zeniter gives voice to the « harkis » and their history. « Harki » is the name given to Algerians who, by explicit choice or not, took the French side during the Independence War. Ali, the grand-father, was a leader in his village in Kabylie where he was producing olive oil. He had served in the French army at the battle of Monte Cassino during World War II. He came back with a medal and enjoyed meeting the veterans in the local of their association in Palestro (now Lakhdaria). When the conflict with the Independentists from FLN got closer to his village, he served as intermediary with the French officers. After the Independence in 1962, he would be marked as a traitor. He managed to escape with his family and to cross the Mediterranean. After many years in refugee camps in Southern France, he finds a factory job and a flat in the projects further North. His prestige as a father is gone, he rarely speaks and his son Hamid takes his distances: after his studies, he moves up to Paris, get married with Clarisse, a French woman, and doesn’t want to hear any more about Algeria. It is Naïma, one of Hamid’ daughters, who works in a fashionable art gallery in Paris, who will, a little by chance, get to reconnect the threads of the family itinerary. As the grand-daughter of harkis, she takes advantage of a trip to set up an exhibition about an Algerian artist and decides to visit the Kabyle village of their origins. It is a very nice book which fills with patience the blanks in a family history - and even in history itself – in which silence was transmitted from generation to generation. http://www.travelreadings.org/2018/06...

  14. 5 out of 5

    James Beggarly

    Thanks to Netgalley and FSG for the ebook. This wonderful epic is told in three parts by the members of one family. The story starts with Ali in French ruled Algeria. He is from a poor family, but one day, during a great flood, Ali sees an olive press floating towards him. He’s able to grab it, start pressing everyone’s olives at a price and change the course of his life: The olive press leads to buying another one, buying olive tress and land until he is one of the wealthiest men in his town. B Thanks to Netgalley and FSG for the ebook. This wonderful epic is told in three parts by the members of one family. The story starts with Ali in French ruled Algeria. He is from a poor family, but one day, during a great flood, Ali sees an olive press floating towards him. He’s able to grab it, start pressing everyone’s olives at a price and change the course of his life: The olive press leads to buying another one, buying olive tress and land until he is one of the wealthiest men in his town. But when rebels decide to challenge the French, Ali finds himself on the wrong side of the conflict, sure that the French will never leave. They do and Ali feels his life, and the lives of his family, is in grave danger and he takes his family and immigrates to France. The second part of the story concerns Hamid, the oldest child. The family has been relocated to a town near a factory where Ali works. Hamid dreams of escape. He finally goes to visit Paris and never goes back to his family, eventually marrying a native French woman and having four daughters. The third part is about Naima, one of his daughters who works in a gallery in Paris. She becomes obsessed with her family’s history, which no one wants to talk about. She gets a chance to go to Algeria to gather some artwork for an upcoming show at the gallery. It’s a trip that will not answer all her questions, but will take her back to the very spot where her family’s story began. This is such a smart and richly told story.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jake Goretzki

    Excellent. A highly engaging, panoramic - dynastic! - and intelligent coming of age novel, dealing with today's ubiquitous theme of identity (and less ubiquitous theme of 'inherited exile') - in refreshingly unsentimental fashion. I just know that the equivalent thing in English would be much more simpering and pious; it'd do amazingly, but it would be schlock too. Structurally it really works too, starting with the foundational Gramps Era and moving to Dad Era then the present. I've been morbid Excellent. A highly engaging, panoramic - dynastic! - and intelligent coming of age novel, dealing with today's ubiquitous theme of identity (and less ubiquitous theme of 'inherited exile') - in refreshingly unsentimental fashion. I just know that the equivalent thing in English would be much more simpering and pious; it'd do amazingly, but it would be schlock too. Structurally it really works too, starting with the foundational Gramps Era and moving to Dad Era then the present. I've been morbidly curious about Algeria (and Pieds Noirs in general) for a few years now, having really enjoyed the BD 'L'Algerie C'est Beau Comme l'Amerique'. I've since amassed assorted memoires and histories on them. What makes this story additionally interesting is that it's about a set of exiles I wasn't aware of (les 'Harkis'), who will have got all the grief of the immigrant minority, plus being seen as an enemy within by neighbours. The lesson: you can be 'that' without being 'of that' and history is sometimes more interesting and complex than that of the winners. In among the insights from the artist, Lalla, one I entirely agree with, to approximate: enough of this fixation with fucking identity; class (poverty, opportunity, etc) is vastly more important. Yalla.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    Profound and moving. Exactly the type of literature I would like to read more of. Wow. This was a fast read for me despite its 600+ pages. The main topic is the Algerian war of independence and its implications: nationalism, betrayal, civil war, forced migration - in this case to France, racism, as well as the future of Algerians in France. While I have studied the French colonialism on the intellectual level, seeing it in stories of real people truly humanizes this horrendous part of recent hist Profound and moving. Exactly the type of literature I would like to read more of. Wow. This was a fast read for me despite its 600+ pages. The main topic is the Algerian war of independence and its implications: nationalism, betrayal, civil war, forced migration - in this case to France, racism, as well as the future of Algerians in France. While I have studied the French colonialism on the intellectual level, seeing it in stories of real people truly humanizes this horrendous part of recent history. It is a truly moving multigenerational story of one Algerian family's move to France, from being wealthy land owners back home to scrambling for a little life in the new country. Dealing with racism and poverty among other issues, each family member creates their national and personal identity in a different way. Alice Zeniter's writing is wonderful and unique, full of rich details which make her novel even more memorable. However, while I didn't mind the longer read, I do think it could have been much shorter (by like 200 pages) and still gotten the point across together with the atmosphere. *Thank you to the Publisher for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Val Heed

    Fantastic! wonderful! One of the best books I've ever read. We follow 3 generations of the family: Ali, a landowner in Algeria who fought for France in WWII. First we learn about his live, his importance as head of the family but then he and his family have to flee Algeria when the country becomes independent. Hamid, his son grows up in France but is tagged as an Algerian although his family are French. He works hard at school, moes to Paris and falls in love with Clarisse. Naïma, his daughter who Fantastic! wonderful! One of the best books I've ever read. We follow 3 generations of the family: Ali, a landowner in Algeria who fought for France in WWII. First we learn about his live, his importance as head of the family but then he and his family have to flee Algeria when the country becomes independent. Hamid, his son grows up in France but is tagged as an Algerian although his family are French. He works hard at school, moes to Paris and falls in love with Clarisse. Naïma, his daughter who has grown up as French, works in an art gallery in Paris is sent to Algeria to collect some works of art for the gallery. This book is a eye-opener about live for the "Harkis" in France, and explains the all to current problems of being an immigrant (although the family is French) and the change of status and people attitudes to foreigners. It's a must-read for everyone who wants to understand the difficulties of living in a country with a duel nationality and culture.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cleric snout

    A brilliant novel. If I could give it 6 stars, I would. Focusing on the fate of a Harki family exiled to France, a country of which they are officially citizens but officiously aliens, it brings recent Algerian and French history to life. But more importantly, it tells of people who are completely believable in what they feel and how they react, and it is filled with moments of beauty. The end is one such moment: "Il serait faux pourtant d'écrire un texte teleologique à son sujet, à la façon des r A brilliant novel. If I could give it 6 stars, I would. Focusing on the fate of a Harki family exiled to France, a country of which they are officially citizens but officiously aliens, it brings recent Algerian and French history to life. But more importantly, it tells of people who are completely believable in what they feel and how they react, and it is filled with moments of beauty. The end is one such moment: "Il serait faux pourtant d'écrire un texte teleologique à son sujet, à la façon des romans d'apprentissage. Elle n'est arrivée nulle part au moment où je décide d'arrêter ce texte, elle est mouvement, elle va encore."

  19. 5 out of 5

    Susan Springer

    French: Rating 4.5. Especially poignant amid conversations of legal and illegal immigration in the U.S., this story traces the flight of a Kabyle family from Algeria in 1962 to resettlement in France. Through successive generations the family must confront questions of identity, belonging, and origines. Knowing what it's like to speak to grandparents in a language not their own, to visit a homeland to which they never returned, to watch a culture and traditions slowly disappear with each new gen French: Rating 4.5. Especially poignant amid conversations of legal and illegal immigration in the U.S., this story traces the flight of a Kabyle family from Algeria in 1962 to resettlement in France. Through successive generations the family must confront questions of identity, belonging, and origines. Knowing what it's like to speak to grandparents in a language not their own, to visit a homeland to which they never returned, to watch a culture and traditions slowly disappear with each new generations, this book spoke to me on many levels.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tracey

    Not a difficult read in French. I found the story easy to follow and compelling, if perhaps a bit predictable. However, for me the highlight was learning about the longstanding relationship between France and Algeria as well as the impact on Algerian-French citizens. I knew very little before reading this book and was inspired to do more research over the course of the book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Clotilde

    I loved it. As a white French woman it taught me so much about history, racism, and the pain Algerian people have gone through both in Algeria and in France. It's amazing and the writing is gorgeous. I loved it. As a white French woman it taught me so much about history, racism, and the pain Algerian people have gone through both in Algeria and in France. It's amazing and the writing is gorgeous.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Noé

    Great book, especially when you have an identity crisis related to your origins. "If I felt nothing, goodbye Algeria, but if I feel something..." Really loved it. Great book, especially when you have an identity crisis related to your origins. "If I felt nothing, goodbye Algeria, but if I feel something..." Really loved it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Laurence

    An amazing take on 3 generations of an Algerian family. Eye opening, insightful and beautifully written

  24. 5 out of 5

    Helena

    One of the best books I have ever read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Manon TD

    This is incredible. It’s the story of a lot of us in France, a lot of third to fourth generation who know nothing. I followed Naima, in a way that I didn’t know I needed to! Incroyable voyage!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Callie

    4.75 excellent book physical copy

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sabina Holmberg

    A

  28. 4 out of 5

    Astridrv

    Reviewed on Storygraph

  29. 5 out of 5

    Eli

    A mix of essay and novel in which the story of a three generations family joins the great History. I learned a lot and much appreciated this little treasure of a book which opens new horizons and allows to see in a new light the Algerian war, the Harkis and more generally the fate of the immigrants, the colonized, of those who have lost.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sribeyre

    A really great book. Although it is fiction this book captures the texture of what it means for a family to come to France from Algeria and really belong to neither country. It is well written and enjoyable. I don't think it is yet translated into English but the French isn't too difficult to read for someone with basic French language skills. A really great book. Although it is fiction this book captures the texture of what it means for a family to come to France from Algeria and really belong to neither country. It is well written and enjoyable. I don't think it is yet translated into English but the French isn't too difficult to read for someone with basic French language skills.

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