My edition of this book is called Our Riches but a new edition was released in May called A Bookshop in Algiers.
In a Nutshell:
Adimi was born in 1986, the same year as me! She was born in Algiers but now lives in Paris. This wonderful book is a kind of love letter to Algiers, but also to Edmond Charlot, to literature and to the love of books.
The slim novella (146 pages) tells the story of Edmond Charlot, the founder of Les Vraies Richesses* (hence the title of the book, in French it is Nos Richesses), the famous Algerian bookstore/publishing house/lending library. Charlot is known for discovering great writers like Camus, Charlot’s story is interwoven with 20 year old, Ryad’s, who has been employed in 2017, to empty and paint the shop, by the new owners of the bookstore, who want to convert the wares of the shop, from books to beignets. The book goes from the 1930s to the modern day, from WW2 to the 1961 Free Algeria demonstrations in Paris. Reading it I thought how we almost take it for granted that writers have relative freedom to write and be published in the UK, when that isn’t the case everywhere in 2021.
Literature, revolution, political freedom, history and the love of books and bookshops.
Our Riches is Adimi’s debut in English and it has won the following prizes: Prix Renaudot, Prix du Style, Prix Beur FM Méditerranée, Choix Goncourt de l’Italie and was shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt.
I hadn’t realised that in 1961, French police officers had thrown Algerian protesters into the Seine and in May 1945, in France, a grand celebration was held to commemorate the end of World War II, but in Algeria, it turned into a massacre.
“We are the people of this city and our memory is the sum of all our stories.”
“Does no one care that we are losing a chance to read, a chance to learn? One who reads is worth two who don’t.”
Eduard Charlot’s method of writing: ” Buy a desk, the plainest one you can find, as long as it has a drawer that locks. Lock the drawer and throw away the key. Every day, write whatever you like, enough to cover three pages. Slip the pages in through the gap at the top of the drawer. without rereading them, obviously. At the end of the year, you’ll have about 900 handwritten pages. Then the ball’s in your court.”
I received this as a birthday present from my brother and parents. You can buy it here.
Our Riches/A Bookshop in Algiers
Written by Kaouther Adimi
Translated from the French by Chris Andrews
28/04/2020, New Directions Publishing Corporation
*Les Vraies Richesses was founded in 1935 when Charlot was 20 years old.
#WITMonth for 2021 is curated by Jess Andoh-Thayre
I am 35, from London but currently living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I have lived in Tanzania, Chile, Spain and now Cambodia. I am married to a diplomat and we have been posted in Dar es Salaam and now Cambodia. Prior to married life, I had also lived in La Serena, Chile and Madrid, Spain.
I am a French, Spanish and English teacher, translator, avid reader and now blogger. When I am not teaching, reading and blogging, I love seeing a brilliant sunset, swimming and hanging out with my husband and son.
Author: Kaouther Adimi
Born in Algiers in 1986, Adimi spent her childhood moving between Algeria and France, she now lives in Paris. This is her third novel, her first available in English. Our Riches has been shortlisted for various prizes. Adimi spent a year going through the archives to reassemble Charlot’s notebooks.
Translator: Chris Andrews
Chris Andrews was born in Australia, in 1962. He studied at the University of Melbourne and taught on its French program, from 1995 to 2008. He currently teaches at the University of Western Sydney. He has also translated works by Roberto Bolaño and César Aira.