Our Riches celebrates quixotic devotion and the love of books in the person of Edmond Charlot, who at the age of twenty founded Les Vraies Richesses (Our True Wealth), the famous Algerian bookstore/publishing house/lending library. He more than fulfilled its motto “by the young, for the young,” discovering the twenty-four-year-old Albert Camus in 1937. His entire archive was twice destroyed by the French colonial forces, but despite financial difficulties (he was hopelessly generous) and the vicissitudes of wars and revolutions, Charlot (often compared to the legendary bookseller Sylvia Beach) carried forward Les Vraies Richesses as a cultural hub of Algiers.
Our Riches interweaves Charlot’s story with that of another twenty-year-old, Ryad (dispatched in 2017 to empty the old shop and repaint it). Ryad’s no booklover, but old Abdallah, the bookshop’s self-appointed, nearly illiterate guardian, opens the young man’s mind. Cutting brilliantly from Charlot to Ryad, from the 1930s to current times, from WWII to the bloody 1961 Free Algeria demonstrations in Paris, Adimi delicately packs a monumental history of intense political drama into her swift and poignant novel. But most of all, it’s a hymn to the book and to the love of books.
Our Riches reminds readers of the printed word’s ability to impart new ideas and shape public opinion.
—Christian Science Monitor
This stirring novel, which was shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt, is based on the life of Edmond Charlot, the publisher best known for discovering Albert Camus and for opening the famed bookstore Les Vraies Richesses in Algiers, in 1936.
—The New Yorker
Thanks to France’s 132-year colonization of Algeria, the two countries are thoroughly intertwined — a relationship Adimi explores with nuance and determination in her third novel, Our Riches, newly translated by the excellent Chris Andrews.
—Lily Meyer, NPR
The truly potent effect of the book is that by taking on literary history from the underbelly of the French nation — from the colony just across the sea — Adimi confronts us with episodes that are simply never spoken of in France: the grand celebration of the end of World War II, in May 1945, which, in Algeria, turned into a massacre by the colonial administration; another massacre, this time in Paris, in 1961, of Algerian protesters, who were thrown into the Seine by French police officers. It is in unhappy nations, we are meant to understand, that history is a relentless companion.
—Elisabeth Zerofsky, The New York Times
In this engaging and place-rich book, it is Adimi’s project to marry the sensuality and the intellect that young Camus fretted over, and to show that there are as many ways to be a bibliophile as to be a sensualist.
—Abby Walthausen, The Los Angeles Review of Books
An understated, lyrical story of reading and resistance over the tumultuous generations.
—Kirkus Reviews (Starred)
Adimi’s confident prose displays Ryad and Charlot’s emotional depth while nimbly shuttling the reader through nearly a century of history. This is a moving tribute to the enduring power of literature.
Fascinating: Adimi synthesizes the private minutiae of the great and sometimes forgotten publisher Edmond Charlot with the history of the times in a suprisingly light, almost breezy fashion, making this a fast, interesting, and engaging read.
—Adam Hocker, Albertine Bookstore
A splendid declaration of the love of literature, the only link between epochs and beings.
A subject in gold: it was necessary to instill a rhythm, an experience, a tension, even to shake up the hourglass of time. Kaouther Adimi, born fifty years after the mythical bookshop, succeeds brilliantly at this triple jump.
If you’re in a bookshop browsing, then Our Riches is for you, by definition. A beautiful little novel about books, history, ambition and the importance of literature to everyone, especially people who are trying to find a voice.