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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Dreams from the Endz
by Faiza Guene
Age Range: 14+
Faïza Guène's Dreams from the Endz is her second novel following on from Just Like Tomorrow – written when she was just 17 and which sold over a quarter of a million copies.
This is the story of 24-year-old Ahlème who lost her mother 13 years previously in a village massacre in Algeria. Her father, the Boss, had already immigrated to France and she and her younger brother Foued joined him after their mother’s death. Her father is permanently disabled as a result of an industrial accident at work and Ahlème’s energies are shared between looking after her dad, trying to get herself a job and also protecting her 16-year-old brother from a life of crime. For her the future looks increasingly bleak.
Ahlème is a spirited and sassy young woman but life for her is tough. She narrates her story without self pity and with a great deal of humour. There are the difficulties of finding work; living in the bled – on a run-down estate where crime is rife - and the constant humiliation of getting up at three o’clock in the morning every three months to go and join a long queue in front of the Immigration Office to renew her paperwork which allows her to stay in France are all recorded with a sangfroid and acceptance of how things are.
There is always a sense of not belonging. Ahlème doesn’t belong in her homeland of Algeria because she has been absent for more than ten years, but neither is she fully legal in France either. Towards the end of her story, Ahlème goes with her dad and brother for a holiday to Algeria to meet the rest of the family. Finally, she feels able to bring the two very different parts of her life together.
As with Just Like Tomorrow, Guène uses urban slang which is adeptly translated by Sarah Ardizzone. There is a helpful glossary of French terms and places together with a Translator’s note on the Slang. This is a gritty novel from a talented young French- Algerian writer.