Europa Editions, one of the most interesting and beautifully curated publishers of works in translation, has just put out Boualem Sansal’s The German Mujahid, a novel inspired by an Algerian mayor who was a former SS officer.
In an evocative review at Words Without Borders, Emma Garman calls Sansai “a novelist at the absolute height of his powers.”
It’s common knowledge that, at the end of WWII, many German war criminals fled from justice via “ratlines” to South American countries. Less notorious, though, are the Nazis who, like the title character of Algerian novelist Boualem Sansal’s excoriating new novel, The German Mujahid, found permanent refuge in Arab countries such as Egypt, Syria and Algeria. Inspired by a visit to a European-style Algerian village whose mayor was a former SS officer, and by what he views as the Arab world’s “erasure” of the Holocaust, Sansal has written a bracingly unsentimental, ingeniously structured story that not only lays bare past collusions between German fascists and Arab governments, but draws explicit parallels between Nazism and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, all the while grappling with the emotive question: “are we responsible for the crimes of our fathers, of our brothers, of our children?”
The German Mujahid is banned in the author’s native Algeria, according to Garman.