This post is also available in: العربية
One of the most critically acclaimed contemporary Maghreb writers, Nina Bouraoui, who was born in France but spent most of her childhood in Algeria, is to be published by a mainstream English language publisher for the first time. Viking in the UK has pre-empted World English Language rights in Bouraoui’s autobiographical novel All Men Want to Know which was a bestseller in France for JC Lattès when it was published in 2018.
Set in Paris and Algiers, the novel captures the tensions of knowing two cultures, of moving from a more closed society in north Africa to the openness of Paris in the 1980s. Viking says: “In All Men Want to Know the author traces her blissful childhood in Algeria, recalling long trips across the desert with her mother and sister and hazy summer afternoons spent on the beach with her friend Ali. But Nina’ s mother is French – moving to Algeria for love at a time when most Europeans were desperate to leave – and as civil war approaches, their sunny idyll gives way to increasingly hostile and violent outbreaks. When something unspeakable happens to her mother, the family flee to Paris.”
Isabel Wall, editor at Viking, bought the title from Elsa Misson who handles foreign rights at JC Lattès. Wall describes the book as haunting and lyrical and adds: “Nina Bouraoui’s writing is a revelation. All Men Want to Know is a hypnotic, poetic and profound exploration of sexuality and desire, shame and violence, of what it means to exist between two opposing cultures. I’m proud to be bringing Nina’s brilliance to the English-speaking world.”
Born in 1967 in Rennes, France, Bouraoui’s mother was French and her father Algerian. She lived in Algiers until the age of fourteen before moving to France and becoming a writer. She also lived for a time in Abu Dhabi. She is one of France’s most renowned living novelists, and has won several prestigious literary prizes, including the Prix Emmanuel Robles, the Prix du Livre Inter and the Prix Renaudot, and she was awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Her work has been translated into more than 15 languages, including Italian, Norwegian and Swedish, but there has been no Arabic translation. She has never before been published by a mainstream English language publisher. Her first novel Forbidden Vision was published by the small US indie Station Hill Press in 1995, and her later work Tomboy was published by the University of Nebraska Press in 2008.
Commenting on the deal, Bouraoui said: “Writing this novel taught me that we are all determined by our history. That it is impossible to break free of the past. I am very moved that this deeply personal novel will be published by Viking.’
All Men Want to Know will be translated into English by the award-winning translator Aneesa Abbas Higgins, with Viking set to publish in August 2020.