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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Banquet of Lies

Amin Zaoui

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To purchase Banquet of Lies

Title: Banquet of Lies
Author: Amin Zaoui
Genre: Novel
Written: 2007 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 315 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Banquet of Lies - US
Banquet of Lies - UK
Banquet of Lies - Canada
Festin de mensonges - France
  • French title: Festin de mensonges
  • The Marion Boyars edition is a bilingual one and includes the entire text in French
  • Translated by Frank Wynne

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Our Assessment:

B+ : overwrought, but works for the most part

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
L'Express . 3/5/2007 Marianne Payot

  From the Reviews:
  • "Une dénonciation tout en finesse, mêlant fiction et réalité, prose et poésie, dans un style incantatoire empreint de sensualité." - Marianne Payot, L'Express

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Banquet of Lies is narrated by Koussaïla, as he recounts his childhood in Algeria in the 1960s. He's torn by guilt, between the devout expectations of his family and especially his mother and his own interests (and lust). He loves words (and reading dictionaries), and does very well at school, at least in French and maths, and does the other kids' homework for money. But his mother considers Western literature an abomination, so he takes to reading Madame Bovary concealed within a cover of the Qu'ran.
       Sex is everywhere, and from his mother's twin sister, the identical yet prettier Louloua who "would even kiss my erect penis" to the wife of his teacher to a nun the kid gets a lot action, even in his pre-teen days. He also has a thing for older women ("Making love to an older woman is like taking the first sip of a fine vintage wine"); in fact, he doesn't much like younger ones (especially not when there's blood involved: fertility is a big turn-off). When he takes a job in a brothel, the one woman he is attracted to, Zouina, is the age of his mother.
       In the background many of the significant local events of the 1960s happen, with ripple effects down to his family's household -- as when:

     Since the coup d'état which had ousted President Ben Bella, my uncle had completely lost his power over the family. He had become impotent.
       But reality only extends so far, and there's a good deal of twisting it to fit the local, more limited world-view -- most notably when the book closes with the Americans landing a man on the moon, and Koussaïla's teacher denouncing the news as a lie:
a great, a mortal lie, contrived and devised to undermine Islam and its prophet Muhammad
       History -- wars and political upheaval -- takes place around him, but Koussaïla focusses on the personal, on his own stories -- his own banquet of lies. It makes for a lot of overwrought writing, but for long stretches it's surprisingly engaging. It makes for an odd -- and sexually excessive (and bizarre) -- testament of the times, but there's something to it.

       Admirably, the English edition is, in fact, a bilingual one. Frank Wynne's translation reads well, but with language like this there's a lot to be said for having the original side by side with the translated text.

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Banquet of Lies: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature
  • See Index of books from and about Africa
  • See Index of Bilingual editions under review

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About the Author:

       Algerian author Amin Zaoui was born in 1956. He is currently head of the National Library in Algiers.

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