cover image Zabor, or the Psalms

Zabor, or the Psalms

Kamel Daoud, trans. from the French by Emma Ramadan. Other Press, $17.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-63542-014-2

Zabor, the narrator of Algerian writer Daoud’s rich, exhilarating second novel (after The Meursault Investigation), finds salvation in writing. Zabor, Arabic for “psalm,” is the first word the narrator ever spoke, and it’s also the name he’s chosen for himself and for the book he’s writing, “the story of [his own] shipwreck... a book of a legendary and indispensable inventory,” inspired by Robinson Crusoe. As he labors on his opus, details of his backstory and situation emerge: an outcast for being something of an autodidact among the barely literate people of his village, he almost never leaves his house. After his mother died in childbirth, his father left him alone, and his aunt came to take care of him. The episodic chapters touch on various points in Zabor’s development, and they’re united by his literary passion, where sustenance and the purpose of his existence lie chiefly in the world of the word. He even comes to believe that if he stops writing about the people in his life, they will die—an illogical yet moving conceit. A Proustian undertone drives this provocative book, which will resonate with readers who share Zabor’s zeal for literature. (Mar.)