Such was the battle that raged between Cousin K and me: good done badly; evil done well. And such is the twisted logic of good and bad, right and wrong, knitted into this vella by one of the most powerful voices to emerge from North Africa in our time. With his father brutally killed as a traitor during a national liberation war and his older brother an army officer far away, the young narrator lives reclusively with his mother, who scorns him. He turns to his young cousin for affection, only to be mocked and humiliated so deeply that his love becomes hopelessly entangled with hatred. Fate places a young woman in the narrator's path when he rescues her from a violent attack, and the reawakening of his confused passions proceeds toward terrible vengeance. In this nameless narrator's tormented reflections, played out against the backdrop of an indifferent world, Yasmina Khadra plumbs the mysteries of the crippled heart's desires.
Yasmina Khadra is the feminine pseudonym adopted by Mohammed Moulessehoul to avoid military censorship. Moulessehoul was born in the Algerian Sahara in 1955 and at one time was an officer in the Algerian military. His recent fiction trilogy on Middle Eastern realities-The Swallows of Kabul, The Attack, and The Sirens of Baghdad-has been widely acclaimed and translated. Moulessehoul is now retired from the military and living in France. Donald Nicholson-Smith and Alyson Waters are both seasoned translators. This is their first translation together.