Having previously read two of Yasmina Khadra's books, I knew this was not going to be cheerful reading, but as the author is attending our literary festival in March, I decided this was a good opportunity to read his latest book.
It is set in Algeria between the two world wars, during a time of colonial rule.
It was quite an eye-opener to realise that the native Arabs were quite so low in this artificial caste system and in their own country, at this time.
Turambo's village had been washed away in a landslide, many of its inhabitants lost and all the animals dead. He moved to the city with his mother, aunt and teenage uncle, who became head of the family, being the oldest male. They were cripplingly poor but managed to scrape enough together by baking. Turambo tries to get work but he was not very successful - what he was good at though, was boxing. Originally used in self defense, a talent scout saw him in action and offered to train him in his gym. Thus Turambo rose to fame - but still he was just a pawn in someone else's game, racism, it seemed, affected even the famous.
The end of the book, which explains how Turambo came to be in prison facing the guillotine, was not what I'd expected and I'm still not sure what I feel about this ending - other than very sad :(
I found myself reading this at the same time as Yalo by Elias Khoury, both books had a young man imprisoned and going back over how they'd arrived at this point, one in Algeria, the other in Lebanon, so I put this one down to concentrate on Yalo. I'm glad I did, as reading the two together was confusing, and this was by far the better read for me.
The Swallows of Kabul (4 stars)
The Attack (4 stars)