Author of some 30 novels, Yasmina Khadra is the honorary president of the Quebec Book Fair, which takes place this weekend. We spoke with the Algerian writer while he was on a train to the Old Capital.
Yasmina Khadra certainly does not lack humor. When asked how he sees his role as honorary president of the Salon du Livre de Québec, he responds tentatively: “For life! Too bad for Quebeckers and Canadians, they are taken with me as Honorary President forever. They will have to go down the street to get rid of me [laughs]. ”
The writer is of course referring to the events that dominate the news in Algeria. Young Algerians protested Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s “life” presidency, forcing him to step down after 20 years in power. How does the writer, who has already tried to be a candidate for the presidency of his country, see these manifestations? “Beautiful,” he answers without hesitation. But it is imperative to find someone for the presidency. It’s beautiful, the marches and the slogans, but the ball is still in the camp of the regime in power. ”
That said, Yasmina Khadra, who lives mainly in Paris today, assures that he is no longer interested in political life and prefers to devote himself to writing.
The work of this former commander of the Algerian army is characterized among other things by his knowledge of the military world and the counter-intelligence. In his most recent novel, Khali l, sold more than 600,000 copies, he slips into the skin of a terrorist kamikaze who participated in the attacks of 13 November 2015 in Paris.
“Understanding the terrorists, putting myself in their head, it was my job for years. My books are read in military schools and police schools. ”
Many readers today know that the real name of Yasmina Khadra is Mohammed Moulessehoul. It is to avoid criticism and censorship of his superiors – to enjoy his freedom of writer, what! – that he adopted at the beginning of his career a female pseudonym composed of the two first names of his wife. “In those years, I did not even think to survive,” says the retired soldier. He often explained in an interview how his wife encouraged and supported her work as a writer.
Today, he no longer thinks of returning to his original name: “My wife would not be happy,” he jokes. And this, even if, in the Arab countries, this pseudonym closes doors.
“I was often asked,” Why take a woman’s name? “Says the one who considers herself a feminist. For me, it is a way of paying homage to women who are, even today, underrepresented, underestimated, as much in the West as in the East. ”
Yasmina Khadra arrives in a city still shaken by the bombing of the Great Mosque, in a province where there is debate on a bill that provides for the prohibition of religious symbols among individuals in positions of authority and teachers.
What does he think of all this? “I would tell Quebeckers what I have already said in several cities around the world, be it Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, etc. : a nation is not built on identity, but on citizenship. Be careful not to make amalgam. Stigma is congenital stupidity. Let’s judge people about their actions, not appearances. Freedom, the true, is that of believing or not believing. Everyone is free as long as he does not touch the freedom of others. ”
Consult the program of the Salon du livre de Québec.
Yasmina Khadra’s schedule at the Salon
Today: 6 pm to 7 pm
Tomorrow: 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm and 4 pm to 5 pm
Sunday: 10:30 to 11:30
Robert Laffont editions (stand 87)
The Quebec International Book Fair, at the Quebec City Convention Center, until April 14