Rachel Schiller learned two horrible things in 1994: that his parents who lived far away in Algeria had had their throats slit by Islamic fundamentalists, and that his father had been a Nazi SS officer working at concentration camps during WWII.
Rachel had been sent to be educated in Paris in 1970, when he was 7. The only time he returned to Algeria before his parents died was in 1985, when he collected his younger brother, Malrich, so that he could also have the benefit of a French education. 14 years apart in age, the two brothers are also of very different temperaments. In alternating passages from their journals, the reader learns how they coped with the shock of learning the truth about their respected father.
Strong parallels are drawn between the Nazis, and the Islamic jihadists who control the banlieu of Paris where the brothers grew up in a foster family. Rachel wrote, "you can't commit atrocities with enlightened people, you need hatred, blindness and a knee-jerk xenophobia." Grief and pain are central emotions in this story, but there is also a determination on Malrich's part to make a better future and to avoid repeating tragic history.
Author Boualem Sansal's books are banned in his native Algeria. He was awarded the German Book Trade Peace Prize this year.