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2084: The End of the World (“2084 : la fin du monde”), by Boualem Sansal
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2084: The End of the World (“2084 : la fin du monde”), by Boualem Sansal

In the footsteps of George Orwell’s 1984, Algerian writer Boualem Sansal has written a novelistic warning against Islamism. 2084 is a fable that reveals the obfuscations of religion.

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A French voice in Algeria

Boualem Sansal was born in 1949 in a small village in the mountains of north-western Algeria. A senior official at the Ministry of Industry, he published his first book in 1999, The Barbarians’ Oath (“Le Serment des barbares”), and was subsequently stripped of his position for his critical attitudes towards the government in power. There followed several novels, novellas and essays (In Praise of Memory (“Petit Éloge de la mémoire”) in 2007, An Unfinished Business (Le Village de l’Allemand) in 2008), all written in French.

 

Censored by the authorities in his country, the Algerian writer has been widely recognized in the Western world, as demonstrated by the success of his latest novel, 2084: The end of the World (2015), which won the Académie française’s Grand Prix du roman in 2015.

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A threat to the dictatorship

2084: The end of the World is set in Abistan, a vast empire which rose from the ashes of the "Great Holy War" and is led by Prophet Abi, the sole earthly representative of the God Yölah. In this system of blind obedience and forgotten consciences, individuals are subject to surveillance which punishes the slightest freedom of thought with death.

 

A true believer, Ati has her tuberculosis treated outside the empire. When she meets Nas, an ethnologist who disputes the official version of history, doubts are sown in the mind of the thirty-year-old, who throws herself into an investigation full of dangers and discoveries.

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An Orwellian fable

In 2084, Boualem Sansal describes a theocracy which exists under the watchful eye of Abi, known as "Bigaye", echoing the "Big Brother" of George Orwell's science-fiction novel 1984. Drawing lessons from the Orwell’s prediction of the abuses of communism, the Algerian novelist takes inspiration from the cultural changes he has observed in his country to create his dystopia.

 

He thus imagines a society based on contemporary Islamic totalitarianism, the result of globalisation without spirituality. For Boualem Sansal, the religious radicalisms that are now spreading in European democracies are in danger of coming to power in the near future. Here, the writer fights them with his pen.

 

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The French language: A Political Choice

The Algerian writer has chosen to write in French, because contemporary Arabic is, in his opinion, suffocated by a religious lexicon that prevents thought from venturing beyond submission to God.

 

This question of language is addressed in 2084 through “abilang,” the official language of his imaginary theocracy, emptied of all historical significance.

 

This is an analysis that has resonated far beyond the French-speaking world, with translations into many languages including Chinese and English.

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The Institut français and the project

2084, The End of the World (“2084, La fin du monde”) has been translated, with the support of the Institut français, into Serbian, Polish, Ukrainian, Czech, Dutch, Chinese, Croatian and Danish.

 

Through its translation support programmes, the Institut français participates in the global dissemination of French-language literature.