July 29, 2021

In Algiers, a bookstore where freedom always has a voice

The books are all there, stacked prominently on the shelves: At the sources of Hirak; Friday in Algeria: humor, songs and commitment; Freedoms, dignity, Algerianity, before and during the Hirak; Hirak, political issues and social dynamics… The Hirak, this “anti-system” movement launched in February 2019, may well be repressed on the pavement, it nevertheless continues to be written, published, read and displayed on the shelves, proof that the regimes authoritarian have many breaches.

At a time when Algerian voters have massively shunned the legislative election of June 12, a consultation that they believe is driven by the authorities to stay in place, the demand for freedom is making its way elsewhere than in the voting booths and in particular in bookstores. One of them is never empty: the Libraire du Tiers Monde, one of the high places of the intellectual life of Algiers.

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The walker of the city center inevitably crosses it, a window covered with titles on the edge of the Emir-Abdelkader Square, not far from the Grande Poste with its neo-masuresque architecture. Facing the statue of the religious and military leader on horseback pointing his sword towards the heavens and adjoining the terrace of the Milk Bar – scene of a deadly attack (three dead, sixty wounded) by the FLN in September 1956 -, the Libraire du Third World is located in a place full of memories.

Abderrahmane Ali Bey, the book worker

Entire generations of Algerians came to open their horizons there after its inauguration, in 1964, by the famous historian Mohammed Harbi, at the time an executive in the government of Ahmed Ben Bella. We don’t just buy books, we also rush to autograph dedications, debates and conferences on the first floor, where we push the displays of textbooks into a corner. In short, there is the beating heart of a literary life which has known many cycles, greatness and alternating miseries.

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The bookstore is first and foremost its bookseller, Abderrahmane Ali Bey, a sixty-something with a sweet voice and an eternal smile, able to say to a customer: “Read the book at home in peace and you will bring it back when you have finished it.” ” If we say of him that he is the linchpin of the establishment, it is figuratively as well as literally, he who started at the base, ” worker “ of the book in the great socialist era.

At the height of the “black decade,” the intimidation was explicit. “We received death threats over the phone. We opened up fear in our stomachs every day. »Abderrahmane Ali Bey, bookseller

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