French press review 19 July 2012
More speculation over the situation in Syria and an interview with the Algerian writer Boualem Sansal feature in today's French newspapers..
Let's start with the Algerian writer, Boualem Sansal.
Sansal, you may remember, was awarded the Arab Fiction Prize earlier this year, for his wonderful semi-autobiographic novel, Rue Darwin, in which the adult writer tries to discover the truth behind certain confused childhood memories. The book is sad, striking, sublime and simply brilliant. It is also fearlessly critical of the madness of islamic fundamentalism, condemning the blindness and false logic of those Sansal calls "Allah's whip-wielders".
But Boualem Sansal never collected his 15,000 euro prize money. The Arab ambassadors who fund the award were annoyed that Sansal paid a visit to Israel, so they cancelled the 2012 prize.
During that visit, Sansal met another writer, David Grossman, whose Israeli soldier son lost his life in action in Lebanon in 2006. The two men are now trying to organise a peace movement among international writers.
Since then, the jury of the Arab Fiction Prize has resigned en bloc, and an anonymous donor has sent the writer 10,000 euros as partial compensation for the cowardice and stupidity of the Arab ambassadors, some of whose governments have formal diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.
Boualem Sansal immediately sent the money to an organisation of Jewish and Arab doctors who work with Palestinian children. He still has no idea of the identity of the mysterious benefactor but says in an interview in today's Libération that the gesture was so perfect, he could never allow it to be tarnished by money.
The rest of the news is far less edifying.
Syria dominates the front pages in the wake of yesterday's suicide killing of three of President Al-Assad's senior security officials.
Fighting in the streets of the capital, Damascus, and the fact that a suicide bomber could reach the heart of the military aparatus indicate that the Assad regime is losing its grip. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the end is anywhere near.
Libération says Assad is still capable of fighting back, and may become even more dangerous since he could decide to bow out in a cloud of lethal chemicals.
Worse, the fact that he is fighting to the end further strengthens the grip of the military opposition, and will make the reconstruction of the country even more difficult.
According to catholic La Croix, the crucial question concerns the reaction of Russia and China, Al-Assad's so-far unwavering allies against the impotent anger of the rest of the world. If Moscow and Beijing think the regime is really about to collapse, they may decide to cut their losses and leave Al-Assad and his countrymen to their respective fates.