“We are at war and we must act accordingly,” says the Algerian writer Boualem Sansal. After the Brussels attacks, the stormy reaction from Sansal leaves no room for doubt about what he believes is the appropriate response to the threat of jihadist terrorism. The method should be cultural, he says, but adds that there must also be a “military response.”
Sansal, who in 1990s Algeria opposed the rise of Islamism that buttressed the authoritarianism of the Bouteflika regime, was fired from his job at the Ministry of Industry because of his position against the government. At the heart of his work has always been the denunciation of Islamic fundamentalism, eventually arriving precisely at the prospect of a military response. You can see that route through the course of his novels.
After Les Serment des Barbares (“The Oath of the Barbarians,” 1999) and The German Mujahid (2008), Sansal earned a nomination for the Nobel Prize for literature with 2084: Le Fin du Monde (“The End of the World,” 2015). In it, he imagines that a large part of the world, called Abistan, is subdued by an authoritarian Islamist regime in the wake of a ferocious holy war. Daily life is marked by endless pilgrimages and public punishments. The novel deals with the dramatic reality presented by the Islamic State and registers, beginning with its title, in the same dystopian vein inaugurated by George Orwell in 1984.
We spoke with Sansal and asked him about it.