Friday, 9 December 2016

The Angels Die by Yasmina Khadra


The Angels Die by Yasmina Khadra 
First published in French in France as Les anges meurent de nos blessures by Editions Juillard in 2013. English language translation by Howard Curtis published by Gallic Books in 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Award-winning author Yasmina Khadra gives us a stunning panorama of life in Algeria between the two world wars, in this dramatic story of one man’s rise from abject poverty to a life of wealth and adulation. Even as a child living hand-to-mouth in a ghetto, Turambo dreamt of a better future. So when his family find a decent home in the city of Oran anything seems possible. But colonial Algeria is no place to be ambitious for those of Arab-Berber ethnicity. Through a succession of menial jobs, the constants for Turambo are his rage at the injustice surrounding him, and a reliable left hook. This last opens the door to a boxing apprenticeship, which will ultimately offer Turambo a choice: to take his chance at sporting greatness or choose a simpler life beside the woman he loves.

In The Angels Die, Khadra asks how much of a person 'belongs' to their employer and where we should draw lines between career and life. Turambo, nicknamed for a mispronunciation of his village name, has absolutely nothing going for him except his fists. After working himself to the bone in any number of dead-end jobs, he eventually goes against his family's wishes and starts learning to be a professional boxer. He is good and could be a champion which leads influential men to invest in his training and career, but does money give those men rights over every aspect of Turambo's life? Even his best friend would rather keep profiting financially than see Turambo leave the boxing ring and the family seem far less critical once the cash starts rolling in.

I liked the philosophical aspects of this novel, considering to what extent Turambo should be grateful for his life-changing opportunity and whether he owes his trainers anything at all. At one point he likens himself to a historical Roman gladiator and I could understand the allusion. Khadra evokes cosmopolitan 1930s Algeria well although particularly from a male point of view. I wasn't always convinced by the female characters. We only see out through Turambo's eyes though so relationships and friendships are filtered accordingly. The frequent racism Turambo suffers as a result of his Arab ethnicity is upsetting to read and I could certainly empathise with his barely restrained fury at his treatment.

It took me a while to get into The Angels Die. I far preferred the book from when Turambo begins to box because the story has a stronger focus. Earlier chapters, like Turambo himself, seemed to lack a direction, but were necessary for the complete narrative.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Yasmina Khadra / Historical fiction / Books from Algeria

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