Street of thieves by Mathias Enard

Street of thieves by Mathias Enard

French fiction

Original title – Rue des voleurs

Translator – Charlotte Mandell

Source – review copy

The moon is in the gutter
And the stars wash down the sink
I am the king of the blues
I scrape the clay off my shoes
And wade down the gutter and the moon

The moon blinds my eye with opal cataracts
As I cut through the saw-mills and the stacks,
Leaping over the gully where I would one day take Lucy
Then wash up my hands in the gutter and the moon.

I choose a very old Nick Cave song The moon is in the Gutter because maybe Lakhdar is in the gutter but there is the moon there to see .

Another from Fitzcarraldo edition today their second book from the s=rising star of French Literature Mathias enard.A s you may recall earlier this year our shadow IFFP jury called in his first book in english Zone to the shadow longlist we felt so strongly it was one of the best books from last year, so no high hopes for this one hey !Mathias Enard studied Arabic and Persian at university, he then went on to spend fifteen years living in Barcelona and most recently he spent a year in Germany living in Berlin.

The rest of our catalogue was more expensive, 9.90 per book. These are bound books, usually in several volumes, heavy as a dead donkey. The collection was entitles The heritage of Islam and was made of reprints of works by classical authors: Lives of the prophet, commentaries on the Koran, works of fhoetoric , theology, grammar. Since these mammoth works had beautiful imitation-leather bindings in coloured calligraphy, they were used mostly to decorate the neighbourhood’s living and dining rooms.

The shop he worked run by Sheik Nreddin selling books and doing their websites .

Street of thieves is the story of one young boys life as he journeys from Tangiers to Barcelona. Lakhdar the boy in question is on the verge of becoming a man and we see the world through his eyes. He is in Tangiers just as the Arab spring starts, we see how the system has kept the youth down, and why him and all his friends look to the other side of the Mediterranean. Lakhdar tries to find his place escape a violent home life to sell books then work on a ferry and then eventually he arrives in Europe and to the city of Barcelona and the Street of thieves a notorious area of the city for pickpockets this is a journey of a boys awakening to a man but also a trip from Africa to Europe and the contrast between the real and the dreams of the journey.

I opened the little safe with help of a key shaped like a cross, it contained a number of papers that had nothing to do with me, and almost five thousands euros in cash. I was becoming a thief. I had enough to live on for a while in Barcelona or elsewhere. The money of the dead that’s kind of idiotic thing I said to myself. Of course there was the police. I had left my fingerprints everywhere , even on the bottles of poison, I was the king of dunces.

Lakhdar is driven to steal for his new world in Europe .

I actually loved this more than the zone this book is one of those that captured the Zeitgeist the way it was to be in the North African Arab world as the Arab spring broke. But he also captures a young boys journey from Boyhood to manhood a sense of broken dreams , false hopes but also find friends and people in the same places and world as yourself. Of course because Lakhdar has read many books in his time we see the way the books have crafted his view of the world. I find it strange this has been heralded as one of the first novels of what happened with the Arab spring Enard is no doubt a rising star (recent events have shown he has ambition ) of French literature.I feel there are two great ways a writer becomes a great writer that is write similar books but make them seem different or write great books with different voices I put Enard in the Later this is different from Zone the same place the greater Mediterranean so to speak but more ground in now than the Zone .

Have you read Enard ?

18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa Hill
    Oct 26, 2015 @ 21:36:07

    I bought Zone when you called it in but I haven’t read it yet. I like the sound of this one too because the Arab Spring fascinates me. I remember when the news first broke about it and all the western commentary was so enthusiastic but I said to The Spouse that it looked like opening a can of worms to me. And sadly, how right I was!


    • winstonsdad
      Oct 26, 2015 @ 21:44:48

      Yes it seems so easy but years of deep rooted government corruption the rise of militant Islam such a complex mix of circumstances I can’t see it changing for decades it was a step the spring but not the race run


  2. julikins
    Oct 26, 2015 @ 21:40:27

    Wow, awesome to know you loved this more than Zone! A potential nominee for the next IFFP prize? Hopefully not just for the shadow panel this time…!


  3. roughghosts
    Oct 27, 2015 @ 03:52:07

    I’m glad to hear you preferred this to Zone. It holds more appeal for me and regularly eye the fine Open Letters edition available here. I admired Zone but did not love it (100 pages removed from the first two-thirds would have helped IMHO). I may have to get to this one, but not this year. 🙂


  4. Tony
    Oct 27, 2015 @ 08:11:27

    Ah, sorry to flow against the current, but I much preferred ‘Zone’ – not that this is bad (it’s certainly not), but ‘Zone’ was just such a special book in its writing and themes 🙂


  5. A Little Blog of Books
    Oct 27, 2015 @ 13:32:44

    I haven’t read Street of Thieves yet but I think Zone still sounds like the more ambitious and interesting book out of the two. I’ll let you know if I change my mind once I’ve read it!


    • winstonsdad
      Oct 27, 2015 @ 13:37:17

      it is the more ambitious but I tend like the more straightforward some times Like with Bolano I prefer savage detectives to 2666 , but pleased be told that Enard latest be translated at the moment.


  6. 1streading
    Oct 28, 2015 @ 18:54:44

    Interesting to hear you prefer it to Zone. Whether others agree or not, that certainly suggests that it’s worth reading. Hopefully it will be long-listed for the new prize – to make up for this year!
    (Given that Pond wasn’t allowed for the Goldsmiths Prize because it was deemed to be short stories, Fitzcarraldo aren’t having much luck)


  7. Max Cairnduff
    Oct 30, 2015 @ 16:41:21

    I’ve read Zone, which I loved and reviewed at mine. Not this though and like others I find it interesting you like it more. To be honest, that bumps it up the queue and it was already a good way up.


  8. Pat
    Nov 10, 2015 @ 07:44:21

    Hi, I took this one on audio book last year, I was taken my the similarities in poverty and the peoples reactions Enard managed to draw of both sides of the Mediterranean, I’ve had a copy of Boussole since it came out and really must get around to reading it (it is not reputed an easy read)


  9. Trackback: Winstonsdad’s Books of the year | Winstonsdad's Blog
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  11. Trackback: Tell them of Battles , kings and Elephants by Mathias Enard | Winstonsdad's Blog

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October 2015


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