This is the story of Turambo, his whole life, from his village of Turambo, wiped out in a landslide to the absolute poverty of the Ghetto of Graba where exploitation, living in the streets and survival by any means are the way of life (his big hope at this time is to become an apprentice shoe shine – but he must pay for his own equipment). This is Colonial Algeria in the twenties, not a French Territory but an integral part of France, Turambo’s destiny is sealed at his birth, there is no way to escape it. “No one escapes their destiny. Destiny? Only exceptional people have a destiny, the rest make do with fatality.”*** But Turambo has a left hook, noticed by a European, boxing is his way out!
From this outline, Khadra draws us a picture of the time and in particular of Oran, of the rivalry between the Arab and Berber communities and their impossible relationship with the Europeans. Turambo as a boxer is no more than an investment for The Duc, a local legend, a well connected half business man, half crook who is the real winner of Turambo’s fights.
But the central story is of Turambo, the story opens at the supposed end with Turambo on death row waiting for the guillotine and as we then flash back we discover his journey from child in misery through to boxing phenomenon, and onto prison, he was never mentally equipped for these changes, he discovers small things at first, (His village was not called Turambo but Arthur Rimbaud explain the Europeans laughing) and we live his three impossible loves as his career unfolds, a cousin whilst living with his family, a prostitute who shows a little compassion when his career begins and a European whose father was a boxer, who explains to him how futile she sees his boxing “Take a look at the statue of the general over there. What does it tell you? It tells you quite simply that you can rebel and burn villages and countryside whilst massacring the inhabitants, claiming victory as much as you like using widows tears to fuel your actions, hero’s end up on marble plinths with pigeons shitting on them”*** and who turns him against his sport.
The final tragedy is almost Shakespearean as it develops which I will not detail here, but even here the outcome suggested at the beginning of the book would have been better than the actual ending.
“hope? What a rip off! There are two kinds of hope. The hope inspired by ambition and the hope which relies on miracles. For the first you haven’t a chance, and for the second I wouldn’t hold my breath, neither represent a way out only death offers this.”***
First published in French as Les Anges Meurent de nos Blessures by Editions de la Loupe in 2013
To be Translated into English by Howard Curtiss and published by Gallic Books in 2016
*** my translation
2 thoughts on “Yasmina Khadra ‘The Angels Die’”
I’ve read a couple of Khadra’s wild and over the top Commissaire Llob mysteries but have yet to sample his non-crime offerings. Did you like this one despite the disappointing ending? It sounds appealing, but I’ll probably finish the mysteries before I move on to the author’s other stuff. In any event, thanks for the review.
Hi Richard, thanks for the words, the ending wasn’t disappointing, it was just not what was expected from the start, it was more ‘doom’ than expected, otherwise I recommend L’Attentat (The Attack)