cover image Street of Thieves

Street of Thieves

Mathias Énard, trans. from the French by Charlotte Mandell. Open Letter (, $15.95 trade paper (203p) ISBN 978-1-940953-01-4

Set against a backdrop of rising Islamic extremism, the Arab Spring, and the Occupy movement, Énard’s (Zone) latest novel is a howling elegy for thwarted youth. The narrator, a young Moroccan called Lakhdar, spends his time in Tangier ogling girls with his friend Bassam and reading French detective novels. After he is caught naked with his cousin Meryem, his father disowns him. Enter Sheikh Nureddin, who offers Lakhdar a job as a bookseller for the Muslim Group for the Propagation of Koranic Thought, whose under-the-table titles include pamphlets by Sayyid Qutb (an Egyptian writer and leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and ’60s who was executed in 1966 for plotting the assassination of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser), pointing to the group’s nefarious aims. Unlike Bassam, who becomes radicalized by the group, Lakhdar spurns violence and finds escape in books. For Lakhdar, there are two Tangiers—the one referenced by expat authors like Paul Bowles, and the one he himself inhabits; the latter is dismissed by Lakhdar as a simple “homophonic mistake.” Énard’s relentless, incisive prose underscores his thesis that “men are dogs” incapable of determining their fate in the face of the political systems that control them. (Nov.)