Most frequent words in the first chapter of Arab Jazz (Viviane Hamy, 2012), click to enlarge
Arab Jazz, Karim Miské’s multi-award winning novel tells the story of an avid reader. Ahmed is a 21st century Don Quixote, who lives in Paris’s multicultural 19th arrondissement and reads modern chivalric romances; or, in other words, Crime Fiction as Chandler told us. He buys books by the kilo, and stores 2.5 tonnes of them in his flat. His local bookshop is the pharmacy where he finds the remedies for his soul. Sure, these remedies contain a dose of poison too. But he needs them, as the horror and the sick imaginations of others allow him to keep the monsters inhabiting his own head at bay. Some of the books are memorable: Ellroy, Tosches, and Manchette. They rank in his consciousness alongside other considerable books, by Baudelaire, Van Gogh, Artaud, and Debord. He equally reads “vast quantities of Anglo-American industrial thrillers, by Connelly, Cornwell, and Cobain; their names are a bit mixed up in his head”. He often gets the impression that he is reading the same novel, over and over again; which is exactly what he is looking for. He wants to forget about the whole world and immerse himself entirely in a continuous narrative written by others. Until one day a girl’s blood drips down onto his clothes, and real crime re-enters his life.
Karim Miské will read from Arab Jazz at Belfast Book Festival, on Tuesday :