By Zahia Rahmani
Translated by Matthew Reeck
Fiction and lyric essay combine in Zahia Rahmani’s poetic reflection on Islamic history and her struggles with what it means to be Muslim.
Publication Date: February 12, 2019
“Muslim”: A Novel is a genre-bending, poetic reflection on what it means to be Muslim from one of France’s leading writers. In this novel, the second in a trilogy, Rahmani’s narrator contemplates the loss of her native language and her imprisonment and exile for being Muslim, woven together in an exploration of the political and personal relationship of language within the fraught history of Islam. Drawing inspiration from the oral histories of her native Berber language, the Koran, and French children’s tales, Rahmani combines fiction and lyric essay in to tell an important story, both powerful and visionary, of identity, persecution, and violence.
The Algerian-born academic and author Zahia Rahmani is one of France’s leading art historians and writers of fiction, memoirs, and cultural criticism. She is the author of a literary trilogy dedicated to contemporary figures of so-called banished people: Moze (Sabine Wespieser Editions, 2003); “Muslim”: A Novel (Sabine Wespieser Editions, 2005); and France: Story of Childhood (Sabine Wespieser Editions, 2006). The US edition of France, Story of Childhood was published by Yale University Press in 2016. The French Ministry of Culture named her Chevalier of Arts and Letters and a member of the College of the Diversity. As an art historian, Rahmani is Director of the Research Program on Art and Globalization at the French National Institute of the History of Art (INHA), an interdisciplinary program that focuses on contemporary art practices in a globalized world and links many networks in France and abroad. She is the founder and director of INHA’s ambitious Interactive Bibliographic Database on the globalization of art, its history and theoretical impact. Rahmani is a member of the Global Visual Cultures Academic Committee and she also created the graduate research program at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts, which she directed from 1999-2002. Her multi-year international research project at the INHA in Paris and Marseille culminated in Made in Algeria: Genealogy of a Territory, a book and current exhibition of colonial cartography, high and popular visual culture, and contemporary art at the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM), located in Marseille.
Matt Reeck is an award-winning poet and translator from the French, Urdu, Hindi, and Korean. He is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship to India, the American Institute of Indian Studies, and the PEN Foundation. He has translated from the Urdu novels by Saadat Hasan Manto, Bombay Stories (Vintage Classics UK & US, 2014), and Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi, Mirages of the Mind (New Directions, 2015). His translations from the French include Abdelkébir Khatibi’s Class Warrior—Taoist Style (Wesleyan University Press, 2017) and Zahia Rahmani’s Muslim: A Novel (Deep Vellum, forthcoming 2019). He is currently completing his PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of California Los Angeles.
One of Words Without Borders’ Most Anticipated Books of 2019
Part of the New York Times Globetrotting feature on Upcoming 2019 Translations
Included in Translated Lit’s Most Anticipated Books of February 2019
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly’s New & Notable books
Included in Electric Literature’s “20 Small Press Books You Might Have Missed“
Finalist for Big Other’s Book Award for Translation
One of five titles shortlisted for the 2020 Albertine Prize
“A love letter to us: the outcasts, the hyphenated “others,” those who have lost tongues and gained dialects. Zahia Rahmani speaks to the religious fairy tales of my girlhood, the Muslim lore we listened to while learning the Arabic alphabet. “Muslim” challenges the borders of genre, much like Rahmani pushes up against the boundaries of multiple, overlapping identities, investigating imposed definitions and complicating what it means to be colonized, woman, Muslim.” —Dr. Seema Yasmin
“‘I was born into a minor language and escaped from a distant nowhere that didn’t want me,’ Zahia Rahmani writes in this chronicle of the numerous forms isolation can take—and the numerous ways that identity can be both claimed and projected onto someone. This novel is brief in length, but Rahmani’s approach to it allows for a constant mutability of its form and a series of limitless stylistic renewals.” —Tobias Carroll, Words Without Borders
“This is the ethical and political terrain at stake for Rahmani, whose literary fiction is an instrument for truths that as yet have nowhere else to be heard. That the very nature of our political regimes requires intervention by way of fiction suggests that literature has an indispensable role to play in the ongoing work of justice.” —Jill Jarvis, Public Books
“Absolutely essential reading.” —Lyric Hunter, Brazos Bookstore
“The role of myth and archetypes, identitarian persecution, faith, movement through borderlands, naming, and the limitations and potential of particular languages all figure into this autobiographical novel.” —Aaron Robertson, Lit Hub