Acclaimed Author Boualem Sansal

Algerian author Boualem Sansal has achieved international acclaim and is considered one of the country’s most important writers. He has been the recipient of a number of renowned literary awards and his novels have touched the hearts of many.

Born in the small mountain village of Teniet el-Had in October 1949, his family fled Algeria during the civil war, returning to Belcourt in Algiers after independence was achieved in 1962. He studied to be an engineer, and was awarded a doctorate in Industrial Economics. Following much success in his line of work, he was appointed as the general director of Algeria’s Ministry of Industry and Restructuring.

Boualem Sansal began work on his first novel in 1996, after receiving encouragement from Rachid Mimouni, a writer and human rights activist. Sansal was largely moved to write by the assassination of President Boudiaf in the year 1992, followed by civil war and a rise in Islamization. This first novel, entitled “Le serment des Barberes” (The Barbarians’ Sermon), was published in 1999. The book was well received in France and was adapted for film by Jorge Semprún.

His books did not receive the same positive response in his home country as they did abroad. Following his collaboration with other Algerian writers to create “Journal intime et politique, Algérie 40 ans après” (An Intimate and Political Journal: Algeria 40 Years Later), he was removed from his government post. This did not discourage Sansal, who decided to rather place his attentions solely on his writing. In 2006 Sansal’s open letter to fellow Algerians, called “Poste restante: Algier: Lettre de colère et d’espoir à mes compatriots” (Poste Restante: Algiers: A Letter of Anger and Hope to my Compatriots) was published. This resulted in the banning of all his works in Algeria.

Even though he has experienced political pressure in his home country, Sansal continues to reside in Algeria with his wife and daughters. Sansal has authored a number of novels, short stories and essays, for which he has received much praise. Amongst his awards are the 2011 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, 2009 Prix Edouard Glissant, 2009 Médaille d’honneur de la LICRA, 2008 Prix Louis-Guillow, 2008 Grand Prix RTL-Lire, 2001 Prix Michel Dard, 1999 Prix du Premier Roman and others.