A Bookshop in Algiers by the Algerian writer Kaouther Adimi is a literary feast. This book might be small in size, just under 150 pages, but it is dense with captivating literally anecdotes related to both Algerian and French titans of literature as well as with many unique perspectives on the history and culture of Algeria throughout the 20th century. This book offers a moving portrayal of Algeria, its capital, Algiers and its inhabitants.
A Bookshop in Algiers is told in two timelines: one follows the life of the extraordinary literary figure in the French literature, Edmond Charlot (1915 – 2004), from the 1930s Algiers when he began his career as a bookseller and publisher through WW2, the 1950s / 60s Algerian War of Independence and the 1990s Algerian Civil War; the other plot line is set in the contemporary Algiers of 2017 where a young Frenchman of the Algerian origin, Ryad is hired to clear out the present day bookshop called Les Vraies Richesses in order to make a way for a new bakery. In real life, Les Vraies Richesses Bookshop was founded by Edmond Charlot in the 1930s Algiers.
Charlot was the one who ‘discovered’ and published the first books by Albert Camus and had close literary relationships with other writers of that era such as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Andre Gide and Jean Giono. Charlot is portrayed as an idealist, humanist, dreamer, and bibliophile who strongly believed in the power of storytelling as a path to peace and unity.
A Bookshop in Algiers is a truly delightful read. Kaouther Adimi paid homage not only to Edmond Charlot but also to the art of storytelling, literature, and bookshop as a place of a great importance for local communities, of cultural exchange and freedom of thought. Here, a bookshop is more than just a physical place selling books – it is an idea, a magnet for those who dare to dream.
This book is a celebration of publishing industry and those who make stories available to the readers.
I will highly recommend this book.
If you enjoy A Bookshop in Algiers, I would also recommend you 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff.