Idea Of The Day

A Writer Blocked

If you are a novelist but also an officer in an infamous army, although you claim to have had no part in ordering or carrying out massacres conducted by these military forces, does that mean you should be expelled from an organization created to protect writers’ lives? According to the International Parliament of Writers, whose members include Salman Rushdie, Vaclav Havel, and Wole Soyinka, yes, you should, although the person the IPW has thrown out might feel somewhat aggrieved.

Until he chose to reveal his identity last year (an act that coincided with his departure from the Algerian army) few people knew that female novelist Yasmina Khadra—”Jasmine Green”—was a pseudonym employed by Mohammed Moulessehoul, an officer with strong views about the Islamic rebels in his country. Certain intellectuals, particularly in Paris, where shocked. As the Guardian  reports:

Instead of a frightened, oppressed Algerian woman, they got a soldier-novelist—a man who had lived behind barrack walls, and sought mental refuge in literature since his father dumped him in a military academy at the age of nine. This was a writer who, among other horrors, had once seen the body of a baby impaled on a metal bar. … His hands were, inevitably, tinged with the bloodshed in Algeria’s brutal, long-running and often forgotten war. To the obvious discomfort of France’s literary left, Moulessehoul not only crafted black, bitter novels of rural violence and hellish urban decadence but, when not writing, practised violence himself.

As a result of the revelations, the IPW, which had previously assisted Moulessehoul and his family—financially and otherwise—withdrew its support. Not only does Moulessehoul feel shabbily treated by the IPW since he didn’t participate in any massacres—”I can only say what I have seen. In eight years I never witnessed anything close to a massacre by the army,” he tells the Guardian—he is also about to take his revenge. At the beginning of next week, he publishes a memoir titled L’Imposture des Mots—”The Deceitful Word”—which he hopes will expose the hypocrisy of those who once protected him. The book, Moulessehoul says, “is about the shock of a man who dreamed of literature from behind the walls of a barracks for nearly 36 years. I thought only soldiers liked fighting. I have discovered that intellectuals hit harder and hurt more. … My status as a soldier destroys my condition as a writer.”