Black Cat
Black Cat
Black Cat


by Mohed Altrad Translated from French by Adriana Hunter

This powerful debut novel by Syrian-born French billionaire Mohed Altrad follows Maïouf, a boy who is a perpetual outsider, from the desert tribe of his ill-fated birth to the South of France and on to the oil fields of the United Arab Emirates.

  • Imprint Black Cat
  • Page Count 240
  • Publication Date September 06, 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2579-8
  • Dimensions 5" x 5"
  • US List Price $16.00

About The Book

Published to wide critical acclaim in France, Badawi is Mohed Altrad’s heartrending debut novel, inspired by the author’s own narrative arc from Bedouin orphan to engineer and finally billionaire businessman.

In the Syrian desert, a young boy watches as his mother dies. She was a repudiated woman, abandoned by the boy’s powerful father, leaving Maïouf to his scornful grandmother. Though the Bedouin tribes have stopped their centuries-long travels across the dunes—their tents long since converted into sedentary shacks—Maïouf’s grandmother wants him to carry on the tradition of becoming a shepherd. But from the first time he sneaks off to the white-walled schoolhouse to watch the other children learn, Maïouf envisions a different future for himself. This is one extraordinary child’s story of fighting for an education, and a life, he was never supposed to have, from a tiny desert village to the city of Raqqa, from the university halls of Montpellier to the oil fields of Abu Dhabi. But is a life of exile the one he wants? Can a child whose name means “the abandoned one” ever make a home for himself? With each step forward, he feels the love of his youth—a steadfast young Syrian woman named Fadia—and the shifting, haunted sands of his native village pulling him back toward the past he thought he had left behind.

Tags Literary


Badawi is less a celebration of rags-to-riches success than a story about the pain of being caught between two worlds.” —Forbes

“Mohed Altrad’s debut novel Badawi begins in the Cold War–era Middle East, where the Bedouin tradition of a nomadic life struggles against modernity . . . In this tale of a boy caught between worlds, Altrad brings a sparse, lyrical quality to his prose that at times verges on the poetic . . . With its focus on the themes of abandonment, loss, success, and redemption among Syrians at home and abroad, the novel sheds light on the refugee crisis that has dominated headlines over the past two years . . . Necessary.” —Erdað Göknar, Los Angeles Review of Books

“Poetically depicts a Bedouin boy’s extended coming of age and the uneasy navigation of his transition from provincial Syria to the West.” —Publishers Weekly

“With precision, beauty, and fierceness, Mohed Altrad tells the story of a young Bedouin setting off to conquer life . . . A fine book . . . From the beginning, one notes the fresh style, which gives illumination to this poor boy’s fate . . . A subtle tension takes hold in these pages, a pregnant atmosphere . . . And so it is that we’re taken in by the story of Maïouf, launched along his amazing trajectory.” —La Marseillaise (France)

“French literature has been enriched by its first Bedouin writer.” —Entreprendre (France)

“A book built on elusive sands and quiet suffering, filled with the flavors of the Middle East and modesty that masks emotion, like heavy damask . . . A good novel.” —Midi Libre (France)

“Accessible to all.” —Le Monde (France)

“This debut novel, a story of learning, written with simplicity and modesty, rings incredibly true: indeed it seems imbued with the experience both rich and painful of Mohed Altrad, a Syrian who has been settled in France for a long time, of living in exile.” —Notes Bibliographiques (France)


In the distance, the child could see the hole that had been dug in the sand. In the distance, he could still hear the women’s cries and the muted litany of prayers. But none of it meant anything to him. Or rather, he preferred not to think about it. The white figure was lowered. It was laid on a plank which, in keeping with custom, was lowered to the bottom of the hole, then covered with sand. Even from far away, he could hear the sand being thrown on the body. The ceremony came to an end abruptly, like a job done, and the people dispersed.

It was only when he was alone that the child dared venture closer. The disturbed sand around the grave made a darker shape. All around it, little hillocks of sand crumbled slowly. Apart from that, nothing, no one, just the wind.

When he came back, years later, the wind had swept the hillside bare.