The Puzzle

Emilie Bickerton in the NLR’s Sidecar:

‘Every generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it, or betray it.’ Franz Fanon’s declaration in The Wretched of the Earth is quoted towards the end of La Discrétion, the new novel by French-Algerian author Faïza Guène. It captures the preoccupations of this gifted writer who, in five previous works of fiction, has explored the contradictory experience of growing up with Arab immigrant parents in the Paris suburbs.

Guène, now 36, came out of the starting blocks fast. After high school she went straight into writing and filmmaking, and at the age of 19 published her first novel, Kiffe kiffe demain. A short autobiographical comedy about a teenager living in a housing estate just outside the French capital, Guène’s debut was a bestseller and translated into 26 languages. Her films were less polished, looking more like home videos with ropey acting and few artistic flourishes, but they revealed much about the subjects that would fuel her later fiction. Her 2002 short feature RTT explored the impact of France’s statutory 35-hour working week on an Algerian family who could not afford to take leisure time; and her documentary, Mémoire du 17 octobre 1961, featured interviews with people who had been present when scores of Algerian independence protesters were killed by Paris police in 1961.

More here.