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Africa

Acclaimed author joins Algerian presidential race

© Photo: AFP

Text by Sarah LEDUC

Latest update : 2013-11-04

The award-winning novelist Yasmina Khadra has announced his intention to be a candidate in Algeria’s presidential election next year. Khadra spoke to FRANCE 24 and explained his motivations behind this surprising career change.

In 2001, novelist Yasmina Khadra shocked the literary world by revealing his true identity. Hidden behind the pen name was not a woman, as the name Yasmina suggests, but an Algerian army commander with 36-years of service under his belt.

The award-winning novelist, whose real name is Mohammed Moulessehoul, has surprised Algerians again this month by announcing that he intends to run in the country’s presidential election in April.

“I am an author, but above all I am an Algerian who is concerned about his country’s future,” the 58-year-old novelist told FRANCE 24 over the weekend. “I patiently waited for an honest and credible candidate to step forward. But no one ever did, so I have decided to join the race myself.”

Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 76, has served three terms since 1999, but has not yet announced whether he will stand for re-election in 2014.

Bouteflika was hospitalised in France between April and July leading to speculation that he may retire, and that Algeria’s political landscape may be ripe for change.

Stepping out of the shadows

Yasmina Khadra, published thirteen novels in French while he was still on active duty, signing publishing contracts under his wife’s name to evade military censorship.

At first he was mostly known to Algerian readers, but his 1997 novel ‘Morituri’ – a detective story set during Algeria’s bloody civil war – won him wide acclaim in France.

The novelist has flourished since he stepped out of the shadows. His sixteenth novel, 'The Swallows of Kabul' – a story about two Afghani couples living under Taliban rule – was short-listed for the 2006 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

The book was also nominated the Best Book of the Year by both San Francisco Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor, and adapted for the theatre in several countries.

But Khadra says he is ready to give up his “comfortable” career as a writer to join politics. “There are things that are more important than literature. People died for this country, and to serve is fundamental,” he said.

‘Dreamy’ programme

Khadra, who currently heads the Algerian Cultural Centre in Paris, says he remains close to his native country despite the fact he has lived in France for over a decade.

He declined to give details about his political platform for the ballot that is less than six months away, saying he would reveal it at the right time.

“The country needs a fresh start. It must learn to dream and have big ambitions.” the presidential hopeful told FRANCE 24.

“Algerians want to live with dignity and freedom in their country, with an exciting vision for their society. I want to help Algerians break their chains, it’s as simple as that,” he added.

For now his energies appear to be focused on collecting enough signatures to appear as a candidate in next year’s ballot.

Under Algerian electoral laws, independent candidates must collect a total of at least 60,000 signatures, with a minimum of 1,500 from each of at least 25 prefectures across the country.

Date created : 2013-11-04

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