Skip to main content

La prière du Maure by Adlene Meddi - Book Review

The story is set in February, we are not told the year but we are in the second half of the 90s when war raged in Algeria between factions, armed groups, police and army cells, using civilians as ammunitions. Events unfold in Algiers and Tamanrasset.

Djoudet, or Djo, is a retired Chief Superintendent, widowed, with a son who lives abroad and with whom he rarely speaks. He had gone to live in Tamanrasset but had returned to Algiers for a few weeks, which turned into months. One morning, he receives a phonecall from Zedma, the Kalashnikov-ed leader of an Islamic group. Zedma asks Djo to repay an old debt. He had once saved Djo’s life during an ambush. The government had always tolerated Zedma and those like him. But now, mysteriously re-emerging after a six-year absence, Zedma reappears on the scene protected by the government.

Zedma, still head of an armed Islamic group, asks Djo to find a young boy, Amine, who has disappeared. The young receveur, a bus driver assistant who sells tickets during the journey, had decided to spend the night at the station after the bus’s last run because of the curfew. He was never seen again. 

Djo accepts but of course knows Zedma is not giving him the full story. He calls on his brother Aybak, a high ranking Colonel, and asks him to discretely hunt for information on other events that may have occurred that night. Djo also asks a couple of trusted friends, journalist RAS aka Rostmi-Abdelghafour Sofiane, and his former colleague Zine, to hunt for information. 

He quickly discovers that the Algerian Security Services are keeping an explosive secret: the only daughter of the all-powerful DRS* chief was murdered on the same night that Amine disappeared, and in the same area.

To keep their own investigation secret, the DRS is killing all those who may have heard of the events and Djo has walked right into their mine field.

Meanwhile, and in parallel, we are told the story of Structure, the mysterious chief of the DRS, from his early days as assassin during the revolution, to his calculated and ruthless climb in the highest spheres of the military, and eventually of the Intelligence section.

Algerian current affairs’ readers will already be familiar with a similar figure, always spoken about in dreaded terms and referred to as the God of Algeria.

Has Structure been dealt a powerful blow by his enemies? Has his daughter been murdered as a result of a lover’s tiff? Structure will find whoever has committed the crime, but will he catch up with the murderer before he is himself murdered?

Adlene Meddi’s language follows the polar style, full of dark humour, fast and ironic retorts, with a narration built on word play (too many for me towards the end, but that’s subjective). Tragic fates and inescapable ends tie these parallel stories, and in the style of a legend or myth, Meddi reminds his characters and readers that even the lives of gods have an end. 

While La prière du Maure belongs to the crime fiction genre, it also crosses borders into a larger narrative that blends in elements of political fiction.

This novel, while written in 2008, would make for an interesting debate today, especially given recent events and developments on the Algerian ‘political’ scene as running parallel to the investigation of this retired Superintendent, the ascent of the mysterious Secret Services’ all-powerful leader is told, a ascent that ends with his assassination. 

La prière du Maure is a great addition to the Algerian detective fiction genre.

La prière du Maure (The Moor's Prayer) is Algerian novelist Adlene Meddi's second detective novel (ed. Barazakh). It was published in 2008. His first detective novel Le casse-tête turc (that I'd translate as The Turkish Chinese-Puzzle) was published in 2002 with Barzakh editions also.

* Algeria’s Department of Intelligence and Security


Anonymous said…
I read the book some time ago. I didn't like the style and I hated the message behind: a cheap blatant pro"mokhabarat" propaganda. I preferred by far, the Yasmina Khadra "Qu'attendent les singes" fascinating and absorbing style as usual, with a strong message ; and the end was surprising and daring. The complete opposite of Meddi's lame novel.
Nadia Ghanem said…
Hi Bintjezeyer, thanks for dropping by! Meddi definitely spurs on the 'God of Algeria' theme yes, just like in his journalism work in fact.

Khadra is in another league altogether, I really enjoyed Qu'attendent les singes too, and a crime story with (finally) a woman Inspector.

Popular posts from this blog

"Kan darbe yaadatani, isa gara fuula dura itti yaaddu" (Oromo proverb)

"By remembering the past, the future is remembered". These notes are taken from Mengesha Rikitu's research on "Oromo Folk Tales for a new generation" by (see also his "Oromo Proverbs" and "Oromo Grammar"). Some proverbs are folk tales are worth the detour: 1) Oromo Proverb – Harreen yeroo alaaktu malee, yeroo dhuudhuuftu hin'beektu   "The Donkey doesn't know that it is farting again and again when it is braying." (ie some people concentrating on their own verbosity are unaware of what is going on behind them) You can tell that dhuudhuuftu is the farting can't you, am betting on the sound that word makes. Oromifa is one of the five most widely spoken (Afroasiatic) languages in Africa. Its importance lies in the numbers of its speakers and in its geographical extent. The 'official' numbers point to 30 million Oromo speakers (but there has not been to this day a complete or reliable census). The majority

Moufdi Zakaria - The Algerian Ilyad

I am over the moon to have found a PDF version of the original Algerian Ilyad by the great Algerian war poet Moufdi Zakaria. As it is the original version, it is in Arabic HERE (thanks to, a fantastic e-resource for old books, you should check it out).  You can access the book in other formats too HERE . The Algerian Iliad - إلياذة الجزائـر  -  l' Iliade algé rienne  is a 1,000 line poem retracing Algeria's history in great historical details.  Throughout, Cheikh Zakaria recounts all the names that have shapped the Algeria's history. He goes through all the regions' history and their greatest most emblematic figures. This poem is so valuable and beautiful.  It should be on the curriculum of any Arabic and history cursus in Algeria.  Perhaps it is and/or you know this poem? Who is Cheikh Moufdi Zakaria? Well, on 5th of July, three days from now, Algeria will celebrate 50 years of independence. A tremendous poem was composed during

A 1969 copy of Nedjma by Kateb Yacine, illustrated with 9 painting by Issiakhem

  M'hamed Issiakhem seems to have regularly illustrated the work of writers who were his contemporaries. His portrait of Malek Haddad opens the latter's poetry collection ‘ Le malheur en danger ’ (Misfortune in Danger) published by Bouchène editions in 1988:     And the edition of Ismael Ait Djafer's long poem 'The complaint' also published by Bouchene, in 1987, contain Issiakhem's portrait of the poet.     (Photo trouvée sur Albatroz Blog4ever ) Copies of Le malheur en danger are almost impossible to find except in specialised universty libraries so i scanned it here and it can be downloaded as a PDF here . The edition of La complainte by Ait Djafer is no longer in circulation, so I scanned it also, click on the link for a PDF of the copy . I couldn't find a resonably priced copy of the Bouchene edition, but the edition I have and which is placed online here is by Novetlé Massalia and it contains Aït Djafer's second long poem called 'Cri’