Confessions of a Madman personalizes the struggle of a civil war by following the fragmentation and irreversible separation of a single family. Written in alternating flashbacks and descriptions of a man’s present, Sebbar delivers a modern fable for adults: a tale of familial disorientation, identity, violence, and morality. A young man observes his mother losing her mind while waiting for her murdered husband to return home. Despite his estrangement from his father, the son vows to avenge his father’s death by murdering his father’s killers. In delving into his father’s past, he discovers his role in an unsuccessful revolt and soon finds himself following in his father’s footsteps. This book addresses the meaningfulness of cultural traditions, their origins, and their potential contemporary repercussions when juxtaposed with a modern context of events.
Leïla Sebbar was born in 1941 to an Algerian father and a French mother. Much of her literature involves the relationship between France and Algeria, including direct juxtaposition of imagery related to both countries in order to highlight the differing cultures. A unique quality of her work is her penchant for keeping her characters unnamed. The anonymous, mysterious quality of her writing allows a wider relation to all who seek asylum.