In the years following the attacks of 9/11, the Cold War discourse of totalitarianism has resurfaced in connection with Islamist terrorism. Scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals across the ideological spectrum routinely characterize the global jihad as the “new totalitarian threat” for the twenty-first century, as evidenced by such proclamations as the 2006 Euston Manifesto (“For a Renewal of Progressive Politics”). This discourse employs different names—“Islamofascism,” “Islamic totalitarianism”—but each signifies a tentacular threat to liberal democracy across the globe. It is in this context that this essay reads a recent novel, The German Mujahid, published (originally in French under the title Le village de l'Allemand, ou Le journal des frères Schiller) in 2008 by Algerian author Boualem Sansal. Banned in Algeria but winner of the 2011 German Book Trade Peace Prize, The German Mujahid, I argue, reproduces this new iteration of Islamist totalitarianism in novel form, triangulating memory of the 1994 civil war in Algeria and memory of the Holocaust along with contemporary representations of radical Islam in Europe. Yet for a novel so concerned with history and memory, and with the complex interplay between Europe and North Africa, what is striking in The German Mujahid is the absence of any engagement with the French-Algerian war or even French colonialism in Algeria. Certainly there is no shortage of creative and scholarly works on the Algerian War, but the suppression or erasure in the novel of this formative moment signals, in my view, a retreat from the anticolonial ethos that this conflict mobilized globally.
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Vaughn Rasberry; Invoking Totalitarianism: Liberal Democracy versus the Global Jihad in Boualem Sansal's the German Mujahid. Novel 1 May 2014; 47 (1): 108–131. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-2414093
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