Monday, 31 August 2015

BOOK REVIEW : BRIDGES OF CONSTANTINE by AHLEM MOSTEGHANEMI





"There are countries we live in and there are countries that live in us"
         This is the basis of the novel "The Bridges of Constantine" by author Ahlem Mosteghanemi. She is an author, who I can rightly say, is fairly new to the western world of book lovers as her first book, "The Bridges of Constantine" got published only in the year 2013..but the fact is, she is the most popular and successful and loved and followed female author  in the Arab literary world. She is infact the first female Algerian author who writes in the Arabic language. She is a poet first and then an author. In her own words, " When we lose a love, one writes a poem, when we lose our homeland, one writes a novel". Algeria is never far from her mind. Her father was a militant political activist who was forced to go into exile during the Algerian Revolution.
I was so impressed by Mosteghanemi that after finishing this book I read almost all the articles on the internet on her.
The story is about an Algerian revolutionary who fought during Algeria's war of liberation and is currently in a self imposed exile since the past two decades in Paris. Khaled, a man of strong principles, is a victim of post war disillusionment, wherein the ideals held dear during the struggle are now replaced by greed and money and worst of all, an all pervading feeling of "self before nation"!!!! He finds this attitude unpalatable and hence refuses to go back to Algeria, his motherland who once filled the vaccum in his life at the sudden death of his mother.
A famous painter now, he shuns fame and recognition!!! The irony of life is such that it was freedom of his country from the French government that made him loose his one arm in the revolution and now he is taking shelter in that same France to get away from the corrupt Algeria!!
Khaled's life turns 360 degrees when Hayat, daughter of his long dead commander Si Taher comes into his life in Paris. Hayat makes Khaled remember all his long forgotten /buried memories of Constantine and once again makes his wounds raw!! He is completely besotted by her and starts visualising their future together....His obsession with Hayat reaches such a state that he starts thinking of her and Constantine in the same breath..as in they both begin symbolising the same meaning to him...his one true love who is difficult to attain but impossible to leave/ forget....but  again life as we know is never simple nor does it move in  our desired lane. Khaled and Hayat part ways and all he is left alone with, is his broken heart and shattered dreams!!!
A beautiful heart rending story of unrequited love..
The story is from a man's perspective.
 A 50 something year old man - his dreams, his love, his lust, his frustration, his helplessness, his anger- its all written so convincingly that one can almost imagine the author to be a male..  And this has in fact happened with Ahlem when she first published this book in Arabic in the mid 70's. It took her three years and five lawyers to prove that this was her creation, written  from a male's point of view. Wow, isn't it!!!!!
Frankly speaking before this book, I did not know where in the world is Algeria located and had zilch knowledge about its turbulent past. So I was unable to completely relate to the story. But what I really enjoyed was the style of writing and reading about the culture and social setup of Algerian society!!! 

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