All Books Are Sacred: Kamel Daoud in Translation

Friday, November 30, 2018 | Algiers, Algeria

Kamel Daoud in Oran (Source: LePoint.fr)
Of course, it’s not about absolving the West to please them: I don’t live there and I’m no fan of moral compromises nor of denials. Colonisation was a crime, but so too are our present failures. The elites of the "South" must accept it and stop denying it by accusing those who don’t think like them of being traitors.
...
Literature is the only nearly universal dialogue of which we are capable and that gives us the unique privilege of making conversation with strangers, with the distant and the dead, with those who are not yet born and those who dislike one another. To read is to soothe, and not just to travel.
These disparate passages both come from Algerian author and journalist Kamel Daoud's latest piece, which I translated for publication yesterday at regional news-and-commentary site Middle East Eye. Daoud originally delivered the text as a public lecture earlier this month in Lausanne, Switzerland. Middle East Eye published it in the original French under the title "Tous les livres sont sacrés" ("All books are sacred"), but selected a more pointed headline for my (uncredited) English translation: "Blaming the West is not enough: We too are responsible for this calamity".

Daoud is best known internationally for his novel Meursault, Contre-Enquête, published in Algeria in 2013, in France in 2014 (where it won the prestigious Prix Goncourt for a début novel), and in English translation in the US in 2016 as The Meursault Investigation. The novel, written as a modern, postcolonial counterpoint to Albert Camus' famous The Stranger, earned Daoud critical acclaim and