cover image Our Riches

Our Riches

Kaouther Adimi, trans. from the French by Chris Andrews. New Directions, $15.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2815-2

Adimi’s illuminating English-language debut unearths a legendary Algerian lending library and bookstore in parallel narratives. In 1935, French-Algerian Edmond Charlot slowly builds a small publishing empire, releasing books by Albert Camus and other luminaries and opening the Les Vraies Richesses bookshop in Algiers. In 2017, 20-year-old French university student Ryad lands the job of clearing out the shuttered bookshop to make room for a new beignet spot, fulfilling a requirement for his engineering degree. As Ryad interacts with Abdallah, an elderly former bookseller from the shop’s early days, he learns the history of the building he’s been tasked with gutting. These chapters alternate with Charlot’s diary entries, accounting for the bookstore’s 26-year rise and fall, detailing paper shortages during WWII, company turmoil, and Charlot’s sense of being an outsider in the publishing world. Meanwhile, Ryad befriends a young woman named Sarah, and from her and Abdallah learns how important the bookstore’s legacy is to the city and becomes inspired to embrace Charlot’s motto for the shop: “The young, by the young, for the young.” 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. (Apr.)