Monday, 21 April 2014

Intrigue at Sidi Fredj by Khaled Mandi - Book Review

It's the end of the day, and a taxieur last fare forgets her bag in the car. Next morning, he goes back to the address to return the bag to the woman. For this, he doesn’t expect to spend seven months in jail.

It was not Mourad's unsuspicious nature that sent him to El Harrach’s 7 Hectares jail, it was the unpretentious belief he’d been struck by love at first sight by Farida as he drove her to her parents’ home. Farida, though, had been murdered 18 months previously, and had long been buried. 

While investigating a crime that wasn’t one, and a murder that never took place, Mourad discovers that Farida is in fact Ghislaine, a twin born in Algeria and stolen away by a gang trafficking babies just before Algeria’s independence.

In Intrigue at Sidi Fredj, Khaled Mandi tells a tale in an Enid-Blyton-style that plays with djinns, ghosts, folklore, the reality of jail life, inmates’ solidarity and a crushing Algerian justice system.

Should Mandi have closed the story after Mourad discovers a pre-independence child trafficking gang? Yup. So far so great despite the writing’s school-like style. But Mourad can't stop and rest, Mandi forces his character to continue hunting for his love at first sight, to avoid marrying his cousin. And this is when the story becomes the reenactment of a bizarre teenage wet dream. Mourad decides to work 2 years flat to buy enough foreign currency and a visa to France so he can find a (very) accommodating French girlfriend and move in her bed, in the space of a 12-hour conversation on Christmas eve to marry her papers

Should Mandi have closed the story after Mourad comes back to Algeria with his new bride and finally marries her according to the 'proper' rites and a massive party to celebrate his catch? Yup. But Mandi continues with two anecdotes, one when Mourad is going to the local Imam because his French-but-Algerian wife doesn't want to fast, and another by Mandi's grandfather (why?) about life's scars and how they can save lives.

Should Mandi have closed the story after these two anecdotes that have nothing to do with why you picked up the book in the first place? Yup. But Mandi clearly loves writing and in the height of enjoyment he just can't stop. He continues on with a summary of his next novel's first and second part plus three axis quotes.

If you decide to read Intrigue at Sidi Fredj, do, it’s quite enjoyable, just stop of page 102.

Intrigue a Sidi Fredj is a book by Khaled Mandi published by Editions Mazola Communication in 2012, written in French. 160 pages.

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