It would only figure that recent events would coincide with me reading this novel (the Tuareg rebellion in Mali). Tuareg culture is something of a recent fascination for me so I was eager to read this book.
Set in what appears to be the desert lands of Algeria around the time of its independence, a Tuareg named Gazel Sayah rules over a vast stretch of desert, still governed by ancient laws and traditions, completely cut off from the political events taking place in the capital. Two fugitives arrive at his camp and according to the ancient laws of hospitality, Gazel invites them in. Meanwhile the fugitives are being pursued by military officers of the recently formed government. During the night, one of the fugitives is killed and the other hauled away. This is a supreme insult to the Tuareg customs and Gazel pursues the offenders and takes his revenge. The military now pursues Gazel, who leads them across the hot, barren desert - a land he knows well - in a cat and mouse game which will only end in tragedy.
I liked the story here but was a little disappointed by it’s 1940s Hollywood adventure-like feel, although that was also part of its appeal. I suppose I was expecting more about the culture of the Tuaregs (which is definitely here) but not done in the way it was done. By the novel’s end it was hard to tell what the message here was: remaining true to your culture despite modernity or the ancient customs time has come and its time to move into modernity. I suppose he left that up to the reader to decide for himself.
All in all not a bad book but not a great one but that could be because my expectations were too high. There is a little of a Cohelo feel to this. A recommended read for the insights into Tuareg culture but not an essential one. For those interested in the culture may want to check this out.