This elegantly haunting work of fiction features bookstore owner Boualem Yekker, who lives in a country overtaken by a radically conservative party known as the Vigilant Brothers, a group that seeks to control every aspect of life according to the precepts of their rigid moral theology. The belief that no work of beauty created by humans should rival the wonders of their god is slowly consuming society, and the art once treasured is now despised. Boualem resists the new regime with quiet determination, using the shop and his personal history as weapons against puritanical forces.
Readers are taken into the lush depths of the bookseller's dreams, the memories of his now empty family life, and his passion for literature, then yanked back into the terror and drudgery of his daily routine by the vandalism, assaults, and death warrants that afflict him.
"Books have been the compost in which Boualem's life ripened, to the point where his bookish hands and his carnal hands, his paper body and his body of flesh and blood very often overlap and mingle. In the end Boualem himself didn't see a clear distinction any more. He has met so many characters in books, he has come in contact with so many destinies that his own life would be nothing without them."
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Tahar Djaout was considered one of the most promising writers of his generation, and was a firm believer in democracy. Djaout's murder was attributed to the Islamic Salvation Front, who reported that he was killed because he "wielded a fearsome pen." He is the author of eleven books, including the novel Les vigiles, which won the Prix Mediterrane.