The German Mujahid

The German Mujahid

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by Boualem Sansal

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Based on a true story and inspired by the work of Primo Levi, The German Mujahid is a heartfelt reflection on guilt and the harsh imperatives of history.

The two brothers Schiller, Rachel and Malrich, couldn't be more dissimilar. They were born in a small village in Algeria to a German father and an Algerian mother, and raised by an elderly uncle in one


Based on a true story and inspired by the work of Primo Levi, The German Mujahid is a heartfelt reflection on guilt and the harsh imperatives of history.

The two brothers Schiller, Rachel and Malrich, couldn't be more dissimilar. They were born in a small village in Algeria to a German father and an Algerian mother, and raised by an elderly uncle in one of the toughest ghettos in France. But there the similarities end. Rachel is a model immigrant?hard working, upstanding, law-abiding. Malrich has drifted. Increasingly alienated and angry, his future seems certain: incarceration at best. Then Islamic fundamentalists murder the young men's parents in Algeria and the event transforms the destinies of both brothers in unexpected ways. Rachel discovers the shocking truth about his family and buckles under the weight of the sins of his father, a former SS officer. Now Malrich, the outcast, will have to face that same awful truth alone.

Banned in the author's native Algeria for of the frankness with which it confronts several explosive themes, The German Mujahid is a truly groundbreaking novel. For the first time, an Arab author directly addresses the moral implications of the Shoah. But this richly plotted novel also leaves its author room enough to address other equally controversial issues?Islamic fundamentalism and Algeria's ?dirty war? of the early 1990s, for example; or the emergence of grim Muslim ghettos in France's low-income housing projects. In this gripping novel, Boualem Sansal confronts these and other explosive questions with unprecedented sincerity and courage.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Two immigrant brothers discover the truth about their German father's past in this masterly investigation of evil, resistance and guilt, billed as “the first Arab novel to confront the Holocaust.” Narrator Malrich, the younger son of a German father and an Algerian mother, lives with relatives in a gritty, mostly Arab housing estate outside Paris. Malrich is an indifferent hoodlum while his older brother, Rachel, has a university degree and a glamorous job at “a multinational.” The plot hinges on Malrich's reading of Rachel's diary after Rachel commits suicide. After their parents were murdered in Algeria in 1994, Rachel discovered that their father was a Waffen SS officer posted to the death camps. In alternating chapters, the story is perfectly rendered in Malrich's wonderfully adolescent voice and Rachel's increasingly agonized diary entries. All this plays out against Malrich's perceptive likening of Hitler's Germany to the rise of fundamentalist Islamism on his housing estate and his realization that he must take action against the “Nazi jihadist fuckers.” An absorbing and all too relevant novel for our times. (Oct.)
Library Journal
A different perspective on the Holocaust is presented in this novel by Algerian author Sansal. Rachel and Malrich Schiller, two brothers from a remote village in Algeria who now live near Paris, learn that their parents have been brutally murdered by Islamic fundamentalists. When Rachel returns home, he finds papers, medals, and documentation hidden by his father showing that he was a German soldier and chemical engineer who worked at Auschwitz and other death camps. Shocked and bewildered, Rachel travels to every location where his father had lived or worked, and his life gradually unravels as he is overcome with guilt and confusion. Drifting, uneducated, and poor, Rachel's younger brother has been involved with jihadists looking to enlist gullible young men as holy warriors. But after becoming acquainted with his family's tragedy, which opens up a new world for him, Malrich begins to see through the easy answers offered by the local imam and his terrorist allies. VERDICT This is a valuable addition to the canon of the Holocaust and an interesting look into the underworld of Islamic extremism in the European immigrant community.—Jim Coan, SUNY Coll. at Oneonta
Kirkus Reviews
Algerian writer Sansal makes his English-language debut with a novel about brothers who learn their father was a war criminal. Malrich and Rachel Schiller were born in rural Algeria and raised by an uncle in an increasingly dangerous (and, lately, Islamic-fundamentalist) ghetto in Paris. Rachel, the elder, is the good boy, stable and industrious; Malrich is unmoored, alienated and angry. In 1994, their Algerian mother and German father are killed in a massacre in the village of A'n Deb. Troubled by the fact that his parents are listed under false names in the roster of the dead, Rachel investigates and discovers that his father was an SS officer who worked in Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Devastated by this revelation, he withdraws, loses his job and cuts his ties with loved ones. He devotes himself to an exhaustive study of his father's sins and to meditation on guilt and penitence. After a visit to Auschwitz, he goes into seclusion, wastes away dressed in the striped trousers worn by camp inmates and eventually gasses himself to death in April 1996 (a culmination revealed in the novel's opening sentence). The struggling Malrich is left to cope with both his father's legacy and the havoc it wrought on his brother. Sansal daringly suggests an analogy between radical Islam and Nazism (which may be why the book was banned in his homeland), and his accounts of war-torn, ideologically riven Algeria and the grim ghettoes of Paris are powerful and heartfelt. Regrettably, the novel, told mainly through excerpts from the brothers' diaries, doesn't cohere. The musings on moral philosophy can be moving, but Rachel and Malrich ultimately seem less like people than containers for the abstract ideasSansal wants to explore. A worthy subject treated with plodding artificiality.

Product Details

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Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"The German Mujahid, winner of the RTL-Lire Prize for fiction, is a marvelous, devilishly well- constructed novel . . . Terror, doubt, revolt, guilt, and despair-an entire range of sentiments is admirably depicted in this book."-L'Express(France)

"With extraordinary eloquence, Sansal condemns both the [Algerian] military and Islamic fundamentalists; he decries that Algeria crippled by trafficking, religion, bureaucracy, the culture of illegality, of coups, and of clans, career apologists, the glorification of tyrants, the love of flashy materialism, and the passion for rants."- Lire (France)

"The German Mujahid deals with the fine line between the destructive power wielded by Islamic fundamentalism today and the power of another movement that left an indelible mark on history: Nazism."-Haaretz (Israel)

Meet the Author

Boualem Sansal was born in 1949 in Algeria. Since his debut novel, Le serment des Barbares, winner of the Best First Novel Prize in France in 1999, he has been widely considered one of his country's most important contemporary authors. Sansal lives with his wife and two daughters in Algeria.

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The German Mujahid 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book interweaves the diaries of two brothers, sent to France from Algeria at a young age by their German father and Algerian mother. The older brother has assimilated into the Parisian life of a post-ethnic, college-educated employee of an American company who, after his parents are murdered in Algeria by Islamists, learns that his chemical engineer father was an SS officer at concentration camps. He becomes obsessed with trying to understand his father, losing his trans-national job, his Eastern European wife, and in the end his life while following his father's trail through the death camps and escape through Turkey and Egypt. The older brother recorded his mental journey into the past and his physical journeys through the remnants of the holocaust in diaries that become his legacy to his younger brother. The younger brother has not assimilated, continuing to live as an unemployed youth in the suburban Paris projects/slums with his Muslim-Arab immigrant family, friends and neighbors. He learns of his father’s past by reading his brother’s diaries. In many ways, the younger brother is better equipped to understand his father’s path, which began in the 1930s Hitler Youth. Occupants of the suburban apartment blocks (called “estates” in English translation) of the book are predominantly Muslim. The brothers’ diaries are written in the mid-1990s, as radical Islamists are moving in and imposing their Nazi-like ideologies on the largely passive (and unassimilated) residents of the suburban slums. Women are venturing out of their homes less and beginning to wear the hijab and abaya. Violence has begun – a young woman is murdered by an imam, resulting in fear and silent acquiescence in the community. Young men – the friends and neighbors of the younger brother – are recruited, indoctrinated and sent to Afghanistan to martyr themselves as suicide bombers. The younger brother comes to understand that his 1990s environment is much the same as his father’s 1930s environment. He vows to do something to let people know that fascism is rising again in the Paris suburbs, although not believing that he can effect change. The something is publishing the his own and his brother’s diaries as The German Mujahid. Written in two first person voices of the brothers’ diaries, The German Mujahid seems to capture an authentic insider’s view of the French Arab immigrant author. Connections drawn between the rise of Nazi-ism in 1930s Germany and the rise of Islamists in the 1990s gives the book a current events interest that goes beyond the compelling story of the brothers’ reactions to learning that dear old dad was a mass murderer/war criminal.