Al Talyani (The Italian)
Winner of the International Arabic Prize for Fiction 2015
Al Talyani (The Italian), set in Tunisia, tells the story of Abdel Nasser, who is dubbed “Al-Talyani” for his good looks. During his own father’s funeral procession, Abdel makes a mysterious assault on the Imam, who is also his neighbour. The narrator, one of Abdel’s friends, attempts to uncover the motivation behind the attack, reconstructing Abdel’s troubled history from childhood. From his time as a left-wing student at the University of Tunis, during the final years of the Bourguiba era, before the coup of Ben Ali and his ousting of
Bourqiba’s regime in the late 1980s, we move through to the period of radical changes that subsequently rocked Tunisian society when the dreams of a generation were torn apart by the fierce struggle between the Islamists and the Left. The novel reveals the mechanisms of control and censorship exercised through the press as well as the fragility of human beings, their secret histories and buried wounds.