Naïma’s family comes from Algeria, but she knows it only from what she experiences in her grandparents’ tiny apartment in Normandy: the food her grandmother cooks, the precious things they carried when they fled. Naïma’s father claims to remember nothing, has made himself French. But now, one of them is going back; Naïma will see for herself what was left behind—including the family secrets.
How do we protect our families and choose the right side of war, revolution? What price will our descendants pay for the choices we make? Will they judge us fairly? During the War for Algerian Independence, Naïma’s grandfather went from being the wealthy owner of a olive grove to an immigrant scratching out a living in France. Her search reveals how the battle against colonial rule reshaped communities, created deep rifts within families, and let the whims of whoever might be in power instantly overturn the lives of ordinary people.
Alice Zeniter’s The Art of Losing is a powerful, moving family novel that spans three generations, across seventy years and two shores of the Mediterranean Sea. It is a resonant, accessible history of Algeria and the diaspora through the people who lived it. It is also the story of how we carry on in the face of loss: loss of a country, identity, language, connection. And it is, ultimately, an immersive, unforgettable excavation of the personal legacies of colonialism, immigration, and war.