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The Art of Losing

Alice Zeniter Frank Wynne



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06 June 2022
'Remarkable . . . a novel about people that never loses its sense of humanity.' Sunday Times

'A deeply human text about the ghosts of identity and decolonization.' Vanity Fair

Naima has always known that her family came from Algeria - but up until now, that meant very little to her. Born and raised in France, her knowledge of that foreign country is limited to what she's learned from her grandparents' tiny flat in a crumbling French sink estate: the food cooked for her, the few precious things they brought with them when they fled.

On the past, her family is silent. Why was her grandfather Ali forced to leave? Was he a harki - an Algerian who worked for and supported the French during the Algerian War of Independence? Once a wealthy landowner, how did he become an immigrant scratching a living in France?

Naima's father, Hamid, says he remembers nothing. A child when the family left, in France he re-made himself: education was his ticket out of the family home, the key to acceptance into French society.

But now, for the first time since they left, one of Ali's family is going back. Naima will see Algeria for herself, will ask the questions about her family's history that, till now, have had no answers.

Spanning three generations across seventy years, Alice Zeniter's The Art of Losing tells the story of how people carry on in the face of loss: the loss of a country, an identity, a way to speak to your children. It's a story of colonization and immigration, and how in some ways, we are a product of the things we've left behind.

Translated from the French by Frank Wynne

This book is supported by the Institut francais (Royaume-Uni) as part of the Burgess programme
Translated by:  
Imprint:   Picador
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 196mm,  Width: 132mm,  Spine: 31mm
Weight:   336g
ISBN:   9781509884131
ISBN 10:   1509884130
Pages:   480
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Alice Zeniter is a French novelist, translator, scriptwriter and director. Her novel Take This Man was published in English in 2011. Zeniter has won many awards for her work in France, including the Prix Litteraire de la Porte Doree, the Prix Renaudot des Lyceens and the Prix Goncourt des Lyceens, which was awarded to The Art of Losing. She lives in Britanny, France.

Reviews for The Art of Losing

France, like Britain, hardly lacks for migrant fictions now, but Zeniter traces their lonely passage exceptionally well. Her fine-grained scenes unroll into a grander historical canvas. The translator Frank Wynne, in another stellar outing, stylishly catches both her intimate and epic notes . . . With its panoramic vision and generous spirit, The Art of Losing finds shoots of hope amid the stony landscapes of the past. * Spectator * Remarkable . . . Because it deals with immigration, nationalism and Islam, it speaks urgently to our time . . . The moral weight of [Naima's] story is won through the superbly handled earlier sections dealing with the complexities of Ali's loyalties during the war of independence, as Zeniter evenly catalogues the atrocities on both sides . . . This is a novel about people that never loses its sense of humanity. * Sunday Times, 'Translated Book of the Month' * This pacy, complex piece of historical fiction (which was nominated for France's most prestigious literary award, the Prix Goncourt) explores the tangled reality of identity. * New Statesman * Ms. Zeniter's extraordinary achievement is to transform a complicated conflict into a compelling family chronicle, rich in visual detail and lustrous in language. Her storytelling, splendidly translated by Frank Wynne, carries the reader through different generations, cities, cultures, and mindsets without breaking its spell. . . . With The Art of Losing, Ms. Zeniter shows fiction's power as a hedge against loss of the past: the art of regaining. * Wall Street Journal * The Art of Losing is an exceptional novel, a masterful meditation on the negative space of history. With surgical control and deep emotional precision, Alice Zeniter tells the story of a family at once severed from and forever tethered to its past. -- Omar El Akkad, author of <i>American War</i> A deeply human text about the ghosts of identity and decolonization. * Vanity Fair * A captivating exploration of the unspoken stories of the Algerian war. * Le Monde * A powerful family saga . . . [Zeniter] shows how history is passed down from generation to generation, in stories pockmarked by what's left unsaid. * L'Obs *

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