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The Last Summer of Reason

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3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  349 Ratings  ·  58 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 16th 2001 by Ruminator Books (first published 1999)
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(showing 1-30)
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Jonfaith
Oct 11, 2015 Jonfaith rated it really liked it
Can a man exist with a heart capable of committing the horrors thus told?

This brief, terrifying tale of dystopia was found in he author's papers after fundamentalists killed him outside his home in in Algeria in 1992. This is an interminable nightmare, but one with blessing. Such terrors are sanctioned from on high and that is the element which scares me. People are often so certain about religion. Doubt is removed. Butchering everyone else can be viewed to assist and assert expansion of said pu
...more
Jennifer
May 13, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(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
Bucket
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
Lee
Oct 02, 2007 Lee rated it it was amazing
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.
Aj Sterkel
Jan 02, 2017 Aj Sterkel rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult
This review is for the English translation of an Algerian book.

If I was one of those heathens who highlights in books, I would have highlighted every word in this one. The writing is stunning. I wish I had read this book sooner instead of letting it linger on my shelf for months.

I first heard of author Tahar Djaout several years ago, but The Last Summer of Reason is the only book of his I’ve read. Djaout lived in Algeria and was an outspoken critic of Islamic fundamentalism. In 1993, he was murd
...more
Robert
Dec 01, 2007 Robert rated it really liked it
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
Barbara
Nov 03, 2008 Barbara rated it liked it
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
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
Jason McIntosh
Mar 09, 2014 Jason McIntosh rated it really liked it
The story of the dangers of a society that has given itself completely to religious fervor. Ironically, and tragically, this novel was found amongst the authors papers after he was assassinated by an Islamic fundamentalist group.
Shuaidi
Dec 11, 2016 Shuaidi rated it liked it
Each passage is meticulously crafted as a beautifully sad scene. The scenes are nostalgic and soothing or poignant and dark. Reading this book is like scrolling through a series of photographic slides that presented a story about Boualem Yekker's life. A story about an individual's haplessness against a society that has been inundated by a flood of irrationality.
Tammy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tim
May 13, 2009 Tim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: foreign-lit, fiction
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 re ...more
Ly
Jan 26, 2016 Ly rated it it was amazing
For any reader of influential, dramatic, spiritual, or very real stries, I highly recommend this novel. Reminiscent of "Fahrenheit 451", Djaout (somewhat) delivers the story of a free-thinking bookstore owner trapped in a world of restricted and abhorrent policies regarding literature and works of art. A religious revolution has decreed that "all man-made creations rivaling the beauty of the Almighty Creator" are not acceptable. Boualem Yekker, our protagonist, stands powerlessly by while watchi ...more
Jim Puskas
May 09, 2016 Jim Puskas rated it really liked it
This is an important book, a revelatory account of what happens when people who know they are right and everyone who disagrees with them are not just mistaken but evil and must be annihilated. Dystopian and post-apocalyptic? Yes, but not in the manner of so many currently popular books set in some ghastly future; the world described here by Djaout is very real and with us today. Brilliantly written, I've shelved it as prose because of its lyrical, almost nightmarish language.
With all that going
...more
Jonathan Appleton
Mar 23, 2014 Jonathan Appleton rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2014
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
Jason Seligson
Feb 20, 2014 Jason Seligson rated it really liked it
'The Last Summer of Reason' is a short and strange read.

We see so many dystopias these days, but this book should really be discussed as separate and apart from that trend. Unlike a lot of those books, I thought this struck a really nice balance between plot and character. In fact, in 'Last Summer,' the society, overbearing and omnipotent though they are, aren't the most interesting parts of the story. Ultimately, it's the main character, Boulaem Yekker, who resonates the most. Boualem has pret
...more
Stella Wang
Jul 30, 2016 Stella Wang rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has been on my list for years and I finally got to read it. The plot reminds me of "Bonfire of the Vanities" in the Renaissance period where Savonarola ordered to burn paintings and books publicly in Florence because he thought those things were connected with sins. The complex relationships among religion, politics, gender roles and literature are so well-portrayed in this book.

"He has met so many characters in books, he has come into contact with so many unforgettable destinies that
...more
Bridget
Dec 28, 2014 Bridget rated it it was amazing
This book came recommended by John Green as a book he loved but didn't think many people had read, let alone heard of. It's a beautifully written story of a man who owns a bookshop in a country recently taken over by conservative extremists who think art is evil. The entire book is an allegory for radical theocracies, and it makes sense given that Tahar Djaout was killed by Islamic extremists. I was surprised to see that it was such a slim and short novel, and I was surprised to read such beauti ...more
Jennifer
Apr 23, 2008 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
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
Candice
Jun 08, 2013 Candice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Robert Wechsler
Aug 12, 2013 Robert Wechsler rated it really liked it
Shelves: african-lit
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
Baklavahalva
Jan 09, 2008 Baklavahalva rated it really liked it
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
Dave
Apr 10, 2013 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Katie
Feb 19, 2014 Katie rated it it was amazing
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
Cassandra
Mar 07, 2015 Cassandra rated it it was amazing
I think the other ratings have said what I want to say about the book aside from the captivating forward by Wole Soyinka which so powerfully warns against the evils that destroy the Djaouts of our world. Over the years, news story after news story has provoked me to re examine that section and after nearly 100 re reads, just about all of it is highlighted or underlined or commented upon in my copy.
Katherine Mandrin
Apr 11, 2014 Katherine Mandrin rated it liked it
"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.
Lindsay Goto
Normally, I wouldn't put a novel in my poetry section, but that is what reading this book felt like. There is a natural poetry to every line that stays with me long after I've put the book down. Reading up on the author and how he lived makes the story even more poignant. Quietly defiance even as he quails and despairs at the way that the world is changing, Boualem is someone who we can all see ourselves in and is a Shakespearean worthy character in his own right.
Michael Sanchez
It wasn't so much the plot, as much as the style. It's a good book, it could serve as a great complement to Brave New World or 1984. Even better, its semi-real. But, Djaout writes in quite an abstract manner. This could be a problem of the translation from French, or it could be purposeful. There's a tangent in the book where he talks about his love of Arabic writing and the way that it does what this novel seems to. Again, it's not that it was bad. It just wasn't to my taste.
Liza
Mar 24, 2015 Liza rated it it was ok
I liked the message this book has. However, the prose is really confusing at parts. I do wonder if the prose was confusing to reflect the thoughts of the main character, Boualem Yekker. Make sure you read the introduction; if you don't, the full meaning is lost. Even though I rated this two stars, I would suggest reading this book if you want a challenging, thoughtful read. I read it with my book club and the discussion that it caused was very meaningful.
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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.” 11 likes
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