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Arab Jazz by Karim Miské

Arab Jazz (2012)

by Karim Miské

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1069170,980 (3.69)17
  1. 00
    Happy Birthday, Turk! by Jakob Arjouni (charl08)
    charl08: Both European set crime novels focusing on immigrant experience.

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» See also 17 mentions

English (7)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (9)
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
In the multi-culti melting-pot of the 19th Arrondissement, things seem to be unmelting rapidly, as ultra-orthodox Jews and Muslims compete for visibility on the street corners. A young woman has been brutally murdered in circumstances that suggest a religious motive, and two officers from the local police station are trying to sort out the mess. Was it the nice but not-quite-sane Ahmed, a single man who lives downstairs from the victim in an apartment full of American crime novels, or could the crime be part of a sinister global narcotics conspiracy involving bent cops, Jehova's Witnesses and Hassidic rabbis? No, surely not...?

OK, this is an obvious first novel by someone who's seen too many American films, and it has a lot of awkward strokes in it, with some formulaic characters and a ludicrously overcomplicated plot that requires the narrator to break with convention and show us who did it at an early stage so that we have some sort of hope of keeping track of what's going on.

But it is also curiously endearing. Miské's world is one in which evil is everywhere and organised religion is nothing but a lot of frustrated men in silly outfits taking out their resentment on God, but there are still enough young people with common-sense and the determination to stand up for their liberal values. Even if it does have more than its fair share of Islamists, HLMs, poetry and hip-hop, this isn't the pessimistic world of Jean-Claude Izzo (not yet, anyway...). Miské wants us to see that good can triumph over evil, at least provisionally, but he does throw in a destabilising reference to the way the bad guys always get caught in the Mickey-Mouse comics to remind us that this isn't necessarily the real world he's talking about here.

Another thing that struck me about the book is how Miské keeps insisting that you can't force individuals into the little handful of ethnic or religious identities that match journalistic agendas. Everyone has their own particular complicated past to deal with, and many of those turn out to be non-standard. Whom do you identify with if your parents come from different cultures (and perhaps you didn't even have the chance to get to know them), if you have moved between countries several times, if the people around you are trying to reinvent an impossible ideal view of a world that never existed... Miské's use of mental illness in the story is also far from the usual clichés, and he remembers to include plenty of strong female characters. An entertaining book that can stand up for itself, despite a few minor issues. ( )
  thorold | Nov 21, 2018 |
A depressed, obsessional Paris immigrant investigated by a duo of PhD detectives, one floating off in the ozone. A nasty murder of the stewardess upstairs--too nasty for me. Followed by woman-hating obsessions of a Protestant sect, Brooklyn Hasidic Jews and Paris backstreet Muslims, not to mention a cop or two. Drug formulae, God-like little blue pills. Then the book levels off for a landing.
Not quite a book to enjoy, but one to get lost and hopeless inside. ( )
  kerns222 | May 25, 2018 |
This thriller plunges the reader into the multi-cultural stew of the 19th arrondissement in Paris, where Jews, Muslims, and Christians rub shoulders. A particularly brutish murder of a cast-out Jehovah’s Witness sets the stage for an unlikely encounter between Ahmed, a reclusive young man of Mauritanian descent, and Rachel, a beautiful Jewish detective. Ahmed, the downstairs neighbor of the murder victim, spends his time reading pulp thrillers which he buys by the pound from a local Armenian book dealer. His neighbor’s murder brings him out of isolation and plunges him back into the kaleidoscopic neighborhood where he lives, as he tries to find the murderer and at the same time prove his own innocence. Meanwhile, Rachel and her partner Jean track down leads that run the gambit from corrupt French police to a Salafist Imam to a Jehovah’s Witness center in Brooklyn.

Arab Jazz is vibrantly and densely written, much like the urban environment where it is set. There are moments of dreamlike introspection alternating with rough brutality and glimpses of pure evil that give it a kind of claustrophobic punch. Of the many characters in the book, a substantial portion are criminals, killers, or wannabes who fantasize about violence. By the novel’s close, the boundaries between guilt and innocence have blurred, and there is little hope that justice will be done. As the chief of police states, “As for the rest, we have done what we can…But there’s no such thing as absolute victory. There is no end to this fight. It has been going on since time immemorial, and it will continue to go on forever” (239). Entangling themes of violence, greed, desire, and religious discord, this novel’s ultimate focus is the human condition. ( )
1 vote Lori_Eshleman | Jul 26, 2016 |
An atmospheric and occasionally amusing crime novel, set amidst the multi-cultural neighbourhoods of Paris' North East. The plot is straightforward, but the characters (particularly the bewildered Ahmed and the two main cops) are compelling. The religious complexities of the area and of the second- and third-generation migrants that make up much of the cast add some depth. ( )
  mjlivi | Feb 2, 2016 |
A novel concerning religious fundamentalism in the 19th Arrondisement of Paris, Hasidic, Muslim, Jehovah's Witnesses. The perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo attack came from this community. ( )
  clifforddham | Nov 17, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
This is a brilliant debut, both from Karim Miské and Sam Gordon, the very capable translator. The setting – “between the Lubavitch school complex, the Salafist prayer room and the evangelical church” in north-east Paris, home turf of the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket killers – couldn’t be more topical. And Ahmed Taroudant, the novel’s main protagonist, is in some respects a typical French Arab – religiously non-observant, confused about his identity, haunted by the past and now set up to take the blame for murder. Immensely likable despite his neuroses, Ahmed aims “to lose himself by devouring the whole world in a single, uninterrupted story written by others”. The metaphor fits fundamentalists perfectly, but in Ahmed’s case it’s more literal: he’s a crime fiction fanatic who tries to buffer himself from reality with a wall of books.
added by charl08 | editThe Guardian (UK)

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Miské, Karimprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ferrara, M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gordon, SamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Werner-Richter, UlrikeÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Tu parleras moins avec un Glock dans la bouche.
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Ahmed regarde les nuages dans le ciel, les nuages qui flottent là-bas, les merveilleux nuages.
Ahmed is looking at the clouds in the sky, the clouds, the wondrous clouds, floating up there.
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When his upstairs neighbor is murdered, Ahed Taroudant joins the investigation in order to clear his own name.

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