The Last Summer of Reason
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The Last Summer of Reason

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  208 ratings  ·  35 reviews
This elegantly haunting work of fiction features bookstore owner Boualem Yekker, who lives in a country overtaken by a radically conservative party known as the Vigilant Brothers, a group that seeks to control every aspect of life according to the precepts of their rigid moral theology. The belief that no work of beauty created by humans should rival the wonders of their g...more
Hardcover, 145 pages
Published September 4th 2001 by Ruminator Books (first published 1999)
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Community Reviews

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(review originally written for Bookslut)

Tahar Djaout was assassinated for writing books like The Last Summer of Reason. His words are disconcerting, discomforting, and it's not only the fundamentalist Islamic groups (who have been attributed the responsibility for his death) who should be uneasy, it should be all of us. This book is an elegant argument against the complacency of political correctness that excuses brutal repression in the name of cultural differences. As recent events have all to...more
Rachel Smalter Hall
This is most of all a love letter to books, and their expression of dreams and ideas. This is also a warning cry about people who destroy books because they hate dreams and ideas -- the sort of people who love only control & death.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about ideas in books and speech, and the necessity of dissent. Here, the author evokes a world in which those who love ideas are silenced and persecuted. This world is dark, bleak and scary -- and it is also a parallel to the repress...more
I read this for the "Great African Reads" group--left solely to my own devices, this would have been way too serious and challenging! But, thank you, Great African Reads, because I'm happy that I read it. The author, an Algerian, was killed in 1993 by militant Islamists who left the message that it was because his writing was dangerous. This manuscript was found among his things. It was difficult to read, because he really made me feel the oppression and hopelessness of a fundamentalist theocrac...more
Boualem Yekker, bookseller in an unnamed county, is living on borrowed time as someone who does not buy into the new extremely religious regime in his country. The dictatorial new laws are enforced with violence and through coercion, and require women to be completely covered and religious rituals to be practiced. They also forbid things like books, music, and mixed-gender or otherwise "immoral" socializing. Boualem's family, disgusted with his refusal to comply, have left him. We spend the nove...more
Dec 21, 2007 Robert rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: whoever finds it
I was loving this little book about the terrifying and overwhelming reality of trying to resist against theocratic madness, and then I lost it on the subway. I had found it left out on the steps of a brownstone in Brooklyn in the summer of 2005, and had just gotten excited about reading it right now because it has correlations to the class on Political Theology I'm currently involved in... but alas, I have lost it, and I was almost finished. It must have been on some occasion that I was trying t...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
December 9, 2010
I never got around to writing a review for this after I read it. I'm considering a second reading, because I think it probably deserves more than the three stars I gave it. A few days ago I ran across something I had copied from the book. It's never too late to share gorgeous writing, so I wanted to post it here. I love the way he sums up the gifts each season has to offer:

"It is fall, with trees growing cold and leaves beginning to turn red. Nature is resting after having turne...more
Oct 03, 2007 Lee rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
This lyrical story (all the more stunning for being a translation) portrays the importance of art and the dangers of fundamentalism with power and brevity. I cannot recommend it more enthusiastically. The brilliant and incisive preface by Wole Soyinka is a must read.
Jonathan Appleton
This book was recommended by Author John Green (in one of his vlogbrothers posts)

Tahar Djaout was a journalist, author and poet in Algeria while that country was being swallowed up by Islamic extremism. He was assassinated in 1993 by a fundamentalist group saying he: "wielded a fearsome pen that could have an effect on Islamic sectors."

Here are some words from that pen:

----------Some people may consider the following paragraph a spoiler. I really don't since I know a little (very) about the his...more
So often it's cast as "us against them," a battle of cultures, West versus East, or even a "crusade," with all its loaded implications. For several reasons, Tahar Djaout's novel The Last Summer of Reason demonstrates the error of using such thinking when it comes to radical Islamists. In fact, it shows that the impact of and battle against fundamentalism is far from us versus them.[return][return]The Last Summer of Reason examines life from the viewpoint of Boualem Yekker, a bookseller in a rep...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marie Finnegan
This is a haunting story that I found beautifully written. Sadly a reality for some and a possible future for others. It made me grateful to have been born in this country, even with its own political flaws. It also made me wish I were an English teacher so I could make it required reading for my students. I highly recommend.
Robert Wechsler
A 4.5. The protagonist of this tragic, lyrical novella is a refugee in his own city, whose inhabitants' minds and actions (even his children's) are increasingly being controlled by radical Islamists certain of the truth and hateful of anyone who doubts or even thinks. Although there are sections of the novella about what was occurring in Algeria in the early 90s, this is more a universal novel of the spirit, of the crushing of a spirit, the crushing of a future and of the present.

This is a novel...more
A disturbing story of what happens when fanatics of any religion or political persuasion take over a country. This one happens to be set in Algeria in the 1990s but could easily happen anywhere. In this particular edition there is an excellent introduction which tells about the author, assassinated in 1993 for expressing his beliefs in a magazine he created, Ruptures. I believe that information led me to enjoy the book more. Each chapter could be its own short story, but the horror and indigniti...more
Great, somber book. The translator rocks. I want to read everything she translates (Marjolijn de Jager, translates from French and Dutch). This novel is a good antidote to what I imagine things like Lolita in Teheran to be like. The Last Summer of Reason makes it clear that (1) literature won't save you from fundamentalists and (2) the literature you might use to console yourself in a world run by fundamentalists is not only written by West European/North American Christians but also by African...more
Katherine Mandrin
"Djaout was writing amidst a civil war in the early 1990s between Algeria's military government and radical Islamists. He was murdered by an Islamic fundamentalist group in 1993. The unedited manuscript of The Last Summer of Reason was found among his papers after his death and was published without editorial change. "

The story of his life and situation is quite interesting. His actual story, while showing talent, is obviously unedited and unfinished.
May 17, 2008 Jennifer rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those interested in the Middle East and modern Islam.
Recommended to Jennifer by: Paul Matulic
Shelves: novels, novels-arab
A short novel both chilling and full of hope at the same time, written in beautiful prose. This story by Algerian author Tahar Djaout is an important tale for for our times -- read this, and share it with others.

A Talibanesque dictatorship takes over not only a goverment but also a society. Its facade of legitimacy is an ideology it claims serves "God," yet the "God" of these thugs is nothing but an excuse for brutality, rigidity, and control.

In the face of this, the lead character Boulem holds...more
It was definitely an eye opening book and definitely worth reading. And by no fault of the author I would have to say that the book was rather wordy and slightly confusing at times. I say to no fault of the author because the author Tahar Djaout was assassinated by an Islamic Extremist group because of his work as a writer. The manuscript was found after he had passed in 1993. It is still any excellent read and definitely belongs on the shelves with 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and Anthem.
Five stars for literary quality! Oh my. This was one of the most lyrical and beautiful books about books that I have ever read. The beauty and elegance of script was so wonderfully written and I was so impressed by the quality of the story.
The emotion and passion that fueled the story was so amazing. The story line was also very unique and I have to say that I was surprised I enjoyed it. The ideas of liberty in art and expression and ideas of repression, ignorance and obsession created a stunni...more
Wikipedia: the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) is an Islamist organisation that wants to overthrow the Algerian government and replace it with an Islamic state. The GIA called for and implemented the killing of anyone collaborating with or supporting the authorities, including government employees such as teachers and civil servants. It named and assassinated specific journalists and intellectuals (such as Tahar Djaout), saying that "The journalists who fight against Islamism through the pen will peri...more
A very thought-provoking and eloquently considered novel reflecting on the losses we suffer from fundamentalism.
Douglas Penick
An extraordinary rendering of the inner implosion experienced as a society succumbs to religious fanaticism.
The author is one singing quietly, tenderly from a balcony, trying to rouse some dignity as neighbors become enemies, children become judges, a city falls ands a culture is destroyed. He paid the price for this song and was assassinated outside his home in 1993.
The manuscript of this novella was found amongst Tahar Djaout's belongings after he was assassinated for his writing by Islamists in Algeria. This story is poetic, poignant, and horrifying. Another example of the dangerous combination of fear & ignorance. Beautifully written! I felt the tension of the protagonist as he awaited his fate. Read it!
Thahar Djauot was a leaing Algerian journalist gunned down by Mulsim extremists after the appearance of this book. It is a frightening story of what happens when a democratically elected theocracy comes into power.
The writing is beautiful--very vivid, so vivid, it's as though one is reaing a report rather than a fiction musch of the book.
Toen ik begon te lezen dacht ik dat het verhaal zich afspeelde in het Afganistan van de taliban. Nee, het speelt zich af in Algerije!!! Een moslimland waarvan we in het westen toch een eerder gematigde visie hebben.
Tahar Djaout is een Algerijn! Je moet dit lezen. Het drukt je neus op de feiten van waar de Islam echt voor staat!!

This book confronts some interesting and important issues, like supporting the arts and separation between church and state, and personal liberty. However, I found it unbearably patronizing and philosophical. It was all metaphors and lengthy mental monologues- just too much for me to handle.
A fantastically searing and beautiful book. Barely novel length, it's a stream of consciousness window into the muslim fanaticism, written by a man who was killed not long after by muslim fanatics. Probably one of the more haunting books I've read in the last 10 years.
I'm sure this book deserves more than the two stars I gave it. I just had a hard time focusing on the story. Just when I thought a part of the story started getting interesting, it would lose me. I just didn't enjoy this book as much as I had hoped to.
Exquisitely worded. Written just before its Algerian author was murdered by fundamentalists, this novel offers insights into religious extremism and mob behavior along with meditations on aging, time, and place.
Jun 10, 2013 Ivory added it
I only read half of this book, because I had to return it to the library. I enjoyed what I did read, though, and will check it out another time to finish up. :)
Remarkable insights into a "make-believe" place where freedom of thought and expression are not allowed. Very quick read, and worth reading more than once.
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Great African Reads: Nov: Algeria | "The Last Summer of Reason" 20 34 Nov 25, 2008 06:48PM  
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From Wikipedia: Tahar Djaout was an Algerian journalist, poet, and fiction writer. He was assassinated by the Armed Islamic Group because of his support of secularism and opposition to what he considered fanaticism. He was attacked on May 26, 1993, as he was leaving his home in Bainem, Algeria. He died on June 2, after lying in a coma for a week. One of his attackers professed that he was murdered...more
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“The arrogant elimination of the Djaouts of our world must nerve us to pursue our own combative doctrine, namely: that peaceful cohabitation on this planet demands that while the upholders of any creed are free to adopt their own existential absolutes, the right of others to do the same is thereby rendered implicit and sacrosanct. Thus the creed of inquiry, of knowledge and exchange of ideas, must be upheld as an absolute, as ancient and eternal as any other.” 8 likes
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