Our Riches by Kaouther Adimi celebrates quixotic devotion and the love of books in the person of Edmond Charlot, who at the age of twenty founded Les Vraies Richesses (Our True Wealth), the famous Algerian bookstore/publishing house/lending library. He more than fulfilled its motto “by the young, for the young,” discovering the twenty-four-year-old Albert Camus in 1937. His entire archive was twice destroyed by the French colonial forces, but despite financial difficulties (he was hopelessly generous) and the vicissitudes of wars and revolutions, Charlot (often compared to the legendary bookseller Sylvia Beach) carried forward Les Vraies Richesses as a cultural hub of Algiers. In this article, Adimi braids her plotlines together deftly, never lingering long before moving on. This approach could seem hurried or superficial, but here, it works beautifully and you will be able download our riches by kaouther Adimi as well as do the following things:
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Summary of our riches by Kaouther Adimi
The powerful English debut of a rising young French star, Our Riches is a marvelous, surprising, hybrid novel about a beloved Algerian bookshop. Our Riches by Kaouther Adimi celebrates quixotic devotion and the love of books in the person of Edmond Charlot, who at the age of twenty founded Les Vraies Richesses (Our True Wealth), the famous Algerian bookstore/publishing house/lending library. He more than fulfilled its motto “by the young, for the young,” discovering the twenty-four-year-old Albert Camus in 1937. His entire archive was twice destroyed by the French colonial forces, but despite financial difficulties (he was hopelessly generous) and the vicissitudes of wars and revolutions, Charlot (often compared to the legendary bookseller Sylvia Beach) carried forward Les Vraies Richesses as a cultural hub of Algiers.
Our Riches interweaves Charlot’s story with that of another twenty-year-old, Ryad (dispatched in 2017 to empty the old shop and repaint it). Ryad’s no booklover, but old Abdallah, the bookshop’s self-appointed, nearly illiterate guardian, opens the young man’s mind. Cutting brilliantly from Charlot to Ryad, from the 1930s to current times, from WWII to the bloody 1961 Free Algeria demonstrations in Paris, Adimi delicately packs a monumental history of intense political drama into her swift and poignant novel. But most of all, it’s a hymn to the book and to the love of books.
About the author- Kaouther Adimi
Born in 1986 in Algiers, Kaouther Adimi lives in Paris. Our Riches, her third novel, was shortlisted for the Goncourt and won the Prix Renaudot, the Prix du Style, the Prix Beur FM Méditerranée, and the Choix Goncourt de l’Italie. From the age of four to the age of eight, she lived with her family in Grenoble, France. During this period, she discovered the pleasure of reading, by going to the public library every week with her dad. In 1994, she returned to Algeria, which was then under the influence of terrorism. Having very few opportunities to read, she started to write her own stories.
While she was studying in the Algiers University, she entered a writing contest organized by the French Institute, for the young writers in Muret (Haute-Garonne). The short story she submitted held the attention of the jury who published it in a collection alongside the other laureates’ productions. Thanks to this contest, she was invited to Muret, then Toulouse, and finally Paris, where she met with les éditions Barzakh.
Information about the book (Amazon)
- Publisher : New Directions (April 28, 2020)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 160 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0811228150
- ISBN-13 : 978-0811228152
- Item Weight : 6.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.2 x 0.5 x 8.1 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #330,071 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #136 in African Literature (Books)
- #1,496 in Biographical Historical Fiction
- #1,890 in Cultural Heritage Fiction
- Customer Reviews: 4.3 out of 5 stars 49 ratings
Excerpt from our riches by Kaouther Adimi
As soon as you arrive in Algiers, you will have to tackle thesteep streets, climb and then descend. You will come out onto Didouche Mourad — so many alleyways off to each side, like hundreds of intersecting stories — a few steps away from a bridge that is favored by suicides and lovers alike. Keep going down, away from the cafés and the bistros, the clothing stores, the produce markets, quick, keep going, don’t stop, turn left, smile at the old florist, lean for a few moments against a hundred-year-old palm tree, ignore the policeman who will tell you it’s prohibited, run after a goldfinch along with some kids, and come out onto Place Emir-Abdelkader. You might miss the Milk Bar: in full daylight the letters on the recently renovated façade are hard to make out. Their contours are blurred by the blinding sun and the almost-white blue of the sky. You will see children climbing onto the plinth of the statue of Emir Abdelkader, smiling broadly, posing for their parents, who will waste no time in posting the photos on social media. A man will be smoking and reading a newspaper in a doorway. You will have to greet him and exchange a few pleasantries before turning back, but not before glancing off to the side: the silver sea sparkling, the cries of the gulls, and always that blue, almost white. You will have to follow the channel of sky, forget the Haussmann-style buildings, and go past the Aéro- habitat, that block of cement looming over the city.
You will be alone; you have to be alone to get lost and see everything. There are some cities, and this is one, where any kind of company is a burden. You wander here as if among thoughts, hands in your pockets, a twinge in your heart. You will climb the streets, push open heavy wooden doors that are never locked, touch the marks left on the walls by bullets that cut down unionists, artists, soldiers, teachers, anonymous passers-by, and children. For centuries the sun has been rising over the terraces of Algiers, and for centuries, on those terraces, we have been killing each other. Take the time in the Casbah to sit down on a step. Listen to the young banjo players, imagine the old women behind closed shutters, watch the children having fun with a cat that’s lost its tail. And the blue overhead, and the blue at your feet: sky blue plunging into sea blue, a drop of oil dilating to infinity. The sea and sky that we no longer notice, in spite of the poets, trying to convince us that they are palettes of color, waiting to be adorned with pink or yellow or black. Forget that the roads are drenched with red, a red that has not been washed away, and every day our steps sink into it a little deeper. At dawn, before cars have invaded all the city’s thoroughfares, we can hear bombs exploding in the distance. But you will follow the alleys that lie open to the sun, won’t you? You’ll come at last to Rue Hamani, formerly known as Rue Charras. You’ll look for 2b: it won’t be easy, because some of the numbers have disappeared. You’ll stand there facing a sign in a window: One who reads is worth two who don’t. Facing History, with a capital H, which changed this world utterly, but also the small-h history of a man, Edmond Charlot, who, in 1936, at the age of twenty-one, opened a lending library called Les Vraies Richesses.
Where to buy our riches by Kaouther Adimi
You can buy this book which has won– A Library Journal Best Book of the Year
Finalist for the PEN Translation PrizeandWinner of the French American Foundation Prize from the following sites:
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Editorial reviews and praise for the book
“Fascinating: Adimi synthesizes the private minutiae of the great and sometimes forgotten publisher Edmond Charlot with the history of the times in a suprisingly light, almost breezy fashion, making this a fast, interesting, and engaging read.”
― Adam Hocker, Albertine Bookstore
“As Adimi’s story moves slowly toward Algerian independence, there is an ever-present beauty not only in Chris Andrew’s beautiful translation of her work from French to English, but in the seamless way that she weaves her story through time.”
― Arab News
“Our Riches reminds readers of the printed word’s ability to impart new ideas and shape public opinion.”
― Christian Science Monitor
“A splendid declaration of the love of literature, the only link between epochs and beings.”
“An understated, lyrical story of reading and resistance over the tumultuous generations.”
― Kirkus (starred)
“A subject in gold: it was necessary to instill a rhythm, an experience, a tension, even to shake up the hourglass of time. Kaouther Adimi, born fifty years after the mythical bookshop, succeeds brilliantly at this triple jump.”
― Le Figaro
“In this engaging and place-rich book, it is Adimi’s project to marry the sensuality and the intellect that young Camus fretted over, and to show that there are as many ways to be a bibliophile as to be a sensualist.”
― Abby Walthausen, Los Angeles Review of Books
“Thanks to France’s 132-year colonization of Algeria, the two countries are thoroughly intertwined ― a relationship Adimi explores with nuance and determination in her third novel, Our Riches, newly translated by the excellent Chris Andrews.”
― Lily Meyer, NPR
“Adimi’s confident prose displays Ryad and Charlot’s emotional depth while nimbly shuttling the reader through nearly a century of history. This is a moving tribute to the enduring power of literature. “
― Publishers Weekly
“The truly potent effect of the book is that by taking on literary history from the underbelly of the French nation ― from the colony just across the sea ― Adimi confronts us with episodes that are simply never spoken of in France: the grand celebration of the end of World War II, in May 1945, which, in Algeria, turned into a massacre by the colonial administration; another massacre, this time in Paris, in 1961, of Algerian protesters, who were thrown into the Seine by French police officers. It is in unhappy nations, we are meant to understand, that history is a relentless companion.”
― Elisabeth Zerofsky, The New York Times
“This stirring novel, which was shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt, is based on the life of Edmond Charlot, the publisher best known for discovering Albert Camus and for opening the famed bookstore Les Vraies Richesses in Algiers, in 1936.”
― The New Yorker
“If you’re in a bookshop browsing, then Our Riches is for you, by definition. A beautiful little novel about books, history, ambition and the importance of literature to everyone, especially people who are trying to find a voice.”
― Nick Hornby
Community readers reviews on goodreads for our riches by kaouther Adimi
This is a fictionalized biography of a real person, Edmond Charlot, a lover of books, who founded a bookstore in Algiers in 1935 when he was 20 years old. He called the bookstore Les Vraies Richesses – Our True Wealth. (Note that another edition in English has the title A Bookstore in Algiers.) It was as true in 1935 as it is now that’s it’s hard to make money with a bookstore. But Charlot was quite an entrepreneur. The bookstore became a cultural center for the city, the largest city in Algeria. It served as a painting and sculpture gallery and he hosted events featuring local and visiting speakers. He started a subscription service where students could rent books rather than buy them. Charlot achieved greater fame when he started a publishing house. He published early works by Camus, Rilke, Garcia Lorca and Gertrude Stein. Charlot was daring. He pushed the limits of what could be published. He was imprisoned by the Vichy authorities for a time as a Gaullist and communist sympathizer. An entire press run of one of Lorca’s books was seized and destroyed by police.
The book is structured with a variety of sections that keep the reader’s interest. Some sections are journal entries from Charlot. These are somewhat fictionalized too but based on material left behind by Charlot. The chapters jump back and forth from past to present. In modern times a young man arrives from Paris charged with the task of cleaning out and painting the bookstore so it can become a coffee/baguette shop. The young man is literally told to trash the books and he struggles to figure out what he actually should do with them.
The is an old Arab man who worked in the bookstore for much of his life. He ‘stands guard’ across the street watching all the activities. He attempts to acquaint the young man with the rich history of the bookstore. Charlot had to serve in the French army in WW II and he ended up stationed in Paris. He had turned the running of the Algiers bookstore over to his brother and sister-in-law and he stayed on in Paris. He had some success it is starting up a Paris-based publishing house and a literary magazine. (While in Paris he shared a suite of office rooms with Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.) But he could not compete with the established publishers and eventually came back to Algiers to start another bookstore.
Charlot was an advocate for Algerian independence and the story is peppered with historical incidents of violence and massacres during the war for independence. We learn some things about colonial history and French-Algerian relations. For example, in the 1920s there had been separate schools for French boys and ‘native boys.’ When there was initial talk of integrating the schools we read excerpts from a report issued at the time saying the schools could never be integrated because of the horrible psychological impact upon a French boy if a native boy received better marks than the French boy did! When the schools finally were integrated, the French boys wore white shirts and ties but the Arab boys were made to wear a fez with a purple tassel and an orange jacket – just a made-up getup that had nothing to do with their traditional dress. Arab and Berber boys, who were Muslim, had to attend Catholic mass and they could not speak their languages at school.
(I go on a bit much about the schools in the paragraph above because it ties in with a book I reviewed about a month ago: The Simple Past by Driss Chraibi. It’s the story of a ‘native boy’ in French Morocco whose father sent him to French school to ‘learn how his enemy thinks.’)
I liked the story. It flowed smoothly although a bit slow at times, but we expect that of a book about a bookstore, don’t we? LOL. The variety in the structure of the chapters keeps it interesting.
A Bookshop in Algiers is a multiple award-winning work of historical fiction about the beauty of books and the sanctity of freedom. Algiers, 2017. Ryad, a lazy 20-year-old university student in Paris, arrives in Algiers intending to complete his internship, which consists of a thankless task: emptying and closing The True Wealth bookstore and disposing of all of the books. This dusty four by seven metre shop, crammed with yellowed volumes, faded photos, paintings and a thousand other editorial relics, hides the story of an exceptional human and literary adventure, guarded by its last witness, the mysterious Abdallah. Ryad does not like reading and is almost afraid of writing; for him, books are just a source of mites and dust. Thus, he sees this experience as an unpleasant task that is imposed on him. However, once installed in the bookstore, the young man inevitably immerses himself in the immensely evocative atmosphere of the place and, through books with yellowed pages, whose stacks cram into the tiny space, and the countless faded photos still hanging on the walls, he gradually discovers the exceptional human experience of Edmond Charlot.
Algiers, 1936. Edmond Charlot, an enthusiastic 20-year-old, returns home after a trip to Paris with a great idea in mind: to found a bookshop-publishing house that publishes writers from both shores of the Mediterranean, regardless of language, nationality or religion. Supported by a community of talents and affections, he opens a hybrid and welcoming place at 2 Bis of the Rue Charras that soon becomes the seat of the mythical Éditions Charlot, frequented by an extraordinary group of aspiring writers as well as by figures of the calibre of Albert Camus, Jean Giono, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and André Gide. From that passionate little room, entitled to the “true riches” of life, the first editions of memorable texts come out, including the debut of young genius Camus. In this experience, Ryad is accompanied by old Abdallah, the last bookseller of The True Wealth, a kind of spiritual guide who refuses to leave the place. This is a captivating, uplifting and richly atmospheric read which uses Edmond Charlot’s diaries as a guiding thread.
Mixing past and present, reality and invention, history and intimate everyday life, Kaouther Adimi leads us with finesse and simplicity through the alleys of an imaginative city and gives life to the novel of a ferryman of books and ideas who was, perhaps without knowing it, the secret creator of much of the best literature of the twentieth century. With her award-winning novel, the young Algerian author succeeds in paying homage to literature and being an outstanding sponsor. In a fictional diary, she sketches Edmond Charlot’s eventful life in a lifelike and sensitive manner and tells of a politically and culturally closely interwoven and at the same time torn Mediterranean region in a turbulent time. And it ties in with the present, where Charlot’s world of literature can be rediscovered. It explores the history of Algeria and, above all, a profession that cannot be understood without the love of books and that is fundamental for the survival of literature. Highly recommended to literature connoisseurs and those who enjoy basking in the light of other cultures.
Reviews from customers on Amazon about the book
Reviewed in the United States on May 10, 2021
If you love books and literature, especially Algerian and French literature, I highly recommend this book. Written using the story of an Algerian book publisher and focused on his former bookshop in Algiers, the author recounts the experiences of a young man in clearing out his former shop that has been sold to make way for a beignet shop. Set mainly from the 1930s to the 1960s it recounts the story of one man who rose to publish some of Algeria’s and France’s most famous authors. It evokes the daily life of the people of Algeria of today, set against the horrors of the terrible war of independence fought against France. You will be sorry to finish this poignant book and you will wish that there was more.
Reviewed in the United States on August 1, 2020
Words in books are meant to be shared, read, thought about. With fiction, a writer might start with something true, say the history of a bookshop, a very small bookshop, revered by writers and readers. Or by some of them. The place is tiny, but the reach of the words in the books is worldwide. But everything ends. People die. Countries change regimes. The value of books, of words, falls into the gutter. Or is blown away. Or is piled outside. Given away. So a novelist starts with the actual and lets imagination run.
Reviewed in the United States on September 29, 2021
Having spent the core of my childhood in Algeria, I’ll pick up pretty much any new book in English by an Algerian author. This slim patchwork construction tells the story of the real-life editor, publisher, bookseller Edmond Charlot, who, as a 20-year-old in 1936, opened a store/gallery space in Algiers for books, art and young writers and artists to coalesce. The book is also seeking to say something more about Algeria and France, but isn’t overt about its intentions — it’s more of a mood.
The story opens and closes with direct-address sections in 2017 Algiers. In between we have the story of Ryad, a French-Algerian who has come to Algiers to do a work experience internship that basically involves the manual labor of clearing out an old storefront and repainting it. That storefront is the derelict former tiny public library that had in a previous era been Edmond Charlot’s store. Alternating with Ryad’s story is the chronological telling of the founding of the store and publishing house, and Charlot’s fictional journal entries, spanning 1930-60.
The result is a collage of moments and feelings, rather than a comprehensive historical account or standard narrative. The reader gets the sense of the struggle to create culture and art in the face of cultural and political barriers (not to mention the financial realities that publishing is, at best, a break-even business). Mixed into this are scenes of the 1945 Setif massacre, and the 1961 Paris massacre. I’m not quite sure what to make of it all — it’s certainly evocative up to a point, and perhaps even moving to some readers as a celebration of those seeking to make space for art and writng, but I’m not sure that it’s likely to connect with non-French or Algerian readers.
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