The African Equation
By Yasmina Khadra, and Howard Curtis
First published in France as L’aEquation africaine by aEditions Julliard, 2011.Tweet
I wasn't sure at first I would enjoy this book going by the blurb. A journey of violence at first followed by anger,despair and then a self discovery of feelings. A realisation that from having nothing still gave hope and a fight to survive. The to and fro of control between captor and victim strained at times. Kurt I felt a bare character devoid at first an empty vessel he did change a forced change?
At times it felt a little too forced the whole "we have nothing but you have everything" I did feel sympathy with both captor and victim.
without giving the end away Kurt gains answers to his questions and his emotions.
For me it wasn't my favourite read ...
a powerful and thought provoking story of how a german doctor, captured by somali pirates comes out of this nightmare a much changed man. It is well written, brutal at times, and questions how we as humans seem to have lost our humanity. There are no winners or losers amongst the captured or the captors. He tries but never answers that question of humanity satisfactorily and the ending of this book seems a little contrived. However it was an enjoyable read and I found once I started reading it almost impossible to put it down.
I found this an excellent read. Entirely believable. I found it impossible to put down. Set in an area of the world about which I know little, the brutality and intelligence of the kidnappers of this recently bereaved German doctor seem impossible to reconcile. Will we ever know what goes on in the vast, empty spaces of Africa? This was the first book that I have read in translation that read so well and intelligently.
A thought provoking, beautifully written book.
From the opening page our book club readers were drawn in and captivated by the author's use of language. There were some beautifully descriptive passages. We thought the relationship between the captors and captives was extraordinary delving deep into the complexity that the effect of violence, inhumanity and deprivation can have on human behaviour.
Recommended for book clubs. Most of us liked it, but as with any book club it was not to everyone's taste as it was not the fastest of paced books and some of the descriptions of torments heaped on the captives was rather graphic. However, we all agreed that it was beautifully written and provoked lots discussion about the characters and relationships between the principle characters.
A novel about the kidnapping of two Germans en route to Africa. They are on a humanitarian aid mission, Hans for purely altruistic reasons and his friend Kurt who is escaping from emotional traumas at home and hopes the trip will be cathartic. Cathartic it may have been – ultimately - but certainly not in the way he had envisaged.
They are hijacked by a group of bandits on their outward journey and the book goes on to describe their ensuing period in captivity and its aftermath. The rebels are a lawless group comprising individuals who have come together for all the wrong reasons - they have set themselves up against the establishment either because they have been let down by it or because they have rebelled against it. There is no shared common objective and there are no strategic plans to achieve a specific goal. Add into the mix a complete lack of strong leadership resulting in mistrust, infighting and random behavior patterns within the group and the hostages have a very uncomfortable time of it indeed. The result is a brutal, violent and harrowing period of confinement for Hans and Kurt as well as for Bruno, another prisoner who they meet along the way. The detailed descriptions of the living conditions and the treatment of the captives are powerfully written and both the Western and the African characters are developed well, bringing them alive in a convincing way.
In a book of this nature there is always the danger that any kind of equable conclusion is going to feel contrived. In this instance the author has succeeded in introducing both redemptive and uplifting elements which seem entirely natural and “right” in the circumstances.
This was a gripping book which I thoroughly enjoyed. My only criticism is that the book was a little “flowery” at times with long stretches of prose which not only looked daunting on the page but which also dragged a little. Overall though, these sections paled into insignificance when taken as part of the whole.
This was the first book that I have read by Yasmina Khadra but I hope it’s not the last.
The African Equation - Yasmina Khadra
Everyone agreed that this book was beautifully written and easy to read however the majority of readers did not find it particularly interesting.
Some of our members were gripped from the beginning and enjoyed the book to the end. They felt they had been transported immediately into the heart of the story and were kept enthralled up to the rather disappointing ending. Others were switched off at the moment of the kidnapping so opinion was very split on this one.
Many of the group did not like the main characters and therefore were not engaged in their stories
It was slightly disappointing for some that the obvious clichés of magical happenings and romantic interest had not been avoided and it was felt that they detracted from what was an extremely good story.
Out of 10 our average score was 6
Most of our group enjoyed this book. Several members said they couldn't put it down as they wanted to know how it turned out. One member said they found the book upsetting but still glad she had read it.
We felt it gave us an insight into a situation we had all heard about from the news but given little thought about the realities of being kidnapped by pirates . Also how the pirates were beholden to their superiors and masters , often given no choice about their actions