From the Guardian:
Moulessehoul is a unique case in contemporary literature. A novelist whose books are published in seven languages, he wrote, until last year, under the female pseudonym of Yasmina Khadra to escape the censorship of one of the world’s least understanding employers – the Algerian army. When he came out of the literary closet his loyal readers in Algeria and France were shocked. Not only was Yasmina Khadra – “Jasmine Green” – a man, but he was an army officer who had spent the previous eight years fighting armed Islamist radicals. 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, seen the corpses of decapitated and disembowelled children, and found an old woman with her feet chopped off, left to bleed to death. 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. Some still cannot forgive him.
A year after leaving both his army and his country to pursue a dream of writing full time, Yasmina Khadra – the name he still publishes under and uses to talk about his literary self – is hurt and astonished. “My status as a soldier destroys my condition as a writer,” he complains. Attacked in the French press, his funding withdrawn by the International Parliament of Writers (IPW), embroiled in a row over whether the Algerian army carried out massacres, he is struggling for intellectual acceptance. On Monday he launches a scathing attack on his detractors in a short memoir, L’Imposture des Mots (The Deceitful Word), that will set the cat among the pigeons of France’s literary establishment. “It 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.”
‘I thought only soldiers liked fighting. But intellectuals hit harder and hurt more.’