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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



The Last One

by
Fatima Daas


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Last One



Title: The Last One
Author: Fatima Daas
Genre: Novel
Written: 2020 (Eng. 2021)
Length: 193 pages
Original in: French
Availability: The Last One - US
The Last One - UK
The Last One - Canada
La petite dernière - Canada
La petite dernière - France
Die jüngste Tochter - Deutschland
La più piccola - Italia
La hija pequeña - España
  • French title: La petite dernière
  • Translated by Lara Vergnaud

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Our Assessment:

B : effective presentation, but ultimately a bit too little is revealed

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Süddeutsche Zeitung . 7/7/2021 Alex Rühle
TLS . 7/1/2022 Alev Adil
Die Zeit . 9/6/2021 Burkhard Müller


  From the Reviews:
  • "Das Buch, das aus diesem drückendem Schweigen entsteht, wirkt wie ein Tunnel, den sich die Autorin aus der Familie herausgräbt, da ist keine auktorial souveräne Perspektive, sondern nur ein Jetzt mit dunklen Rändern, aus dem es irgendwie weitergehen muss. Gleichzeitig merkt man dem sehnig schlanken Text an, dass hier streng gekürzt wurde, nichts wirkt überflüssig oder geschwätzig, eher lässt Daas immer wieder Platz für das Schweigen." - Alex Rühle, Süddeutsche Zeitung

  • "Fatima Daas’s impressive debut novel has the urgency of well-made cinéma vérité. Its narrative is constructed from fragments, repetitions and elisions. (...) Daas is a self-reflexive writer, her prose by turns assuming the style of a testimony, manifesto and commentary. (...) Daas’s writing, in Lara Vergnaud’s smooth translation, embraces dissonance and contradiction. (...) Like Annie Ernaux, whom she quotes, Daas prefers to describe without explanation or justification." - Alev Adil, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Last One is presented in short chapters, most just a page or two long, and these mostly in sequences of short, single-sentence paragraphs, with practically (but not quite) all of them beginning with the statement: "My name is Fatima Daas". (Though clearly autobiographical, The Last One is explicitly presented as a novel; appropriately enough, 'Fatima Daas' is not actually the name of the author but rather a pseudonym.)
       A typical chapter-opening section is, for example:

     My name is Fatima Daas
     As a teenager, I'm an erratic student.
     As an adult, I'm incredibly maladjusted.
       In the concluding chapter, at age twenty-nine, she considers telling her mother about the novel she is writing, her summary getting to the gist of The Last One (in one of the novel's longest paragraphs):
     It's the story of a girl who isn't really a girl, who isn't Algerian or French, who isn't from Clichy or Paris, a Muslim I think, but not a good Muslim, a lesbian whose homophobia is built into her. What else ?
       That pretty much covers it. The youngest daughter of Algerian immigrants to France, Fatima tries to reconcile her different identities -- notably feeling more boy-ish than girl, and being attracted to women while still being a believer. She does not quite fit in anywhere -- though often also because she makes it hard for herself.
       She repeatedly notes how long her commutes are -- including, in one chapter-opening:
     My name is Fatima Daas. I was born in France, sometimes I spend more than four hours on public transportation to get to class, work, a theater, a museum, or back home to my parent's house.
       This sense of distance -- to everything and everyone -- is pervasive in her account. There is a closeness to family, to friends, to lovers (and also to her religion) -- but also something that continues to separate her from all of them. It's more obvious when the family goes to visit relatives in Algeria, a completely foreign world for her, but that is easier to deal with than the feeling of not being part of the country and religion she was born into.
       Fatima takes religion seriously and repeatedly turns to figures of some authority -- older women, religious leaders -- to reconcile her sexuality with her religion; naturally, she never gets satisfactory or helpful advice (even though the people she turns to try to be fairly understanding -- but ultimately they insists her religion and homosexuality are irreconcilable).
       The chapters present a mix of experiences from her life, making for a patchwork picture of child and adult. Often there are just glimpses of even significant parts of her life -- her university studies, for example. At one point she invites a woman she is interested in to see her perform -- but beyond this brief episode we never earn what kind of performance she does, and how big a part of her life this might be. Similarly, it's only revealed at the end that she has written a -- presumably this -- novel. As many of those around her complain, there's a lot she isn't willing to share -- not in more than snippets.
       At times, this is effective: she notes -- barely more than in passing -- that an older sister was raped, and her father's reaction. Instead of dwelling on it in any way, the simple facts, simply stated, already say so much, about her family and circumstances. (Elsewhere, she notes that: "Love was taboo in our home. So were shows of affection, and sexuality", and one can see why she struggles so much with her feelings, especially towards others.)
       Fatima takes religion seriously -- or wants, and tries to, but, as with so much else, feels inadequate. Here too Daas' presentation, quick and to the point, without mulling over endlessly, is effective. (And while she rarely discusses anything at length, there is considerable repetition -- beginning, obviously, with that basic, constant (re)assertion of identity, "My name is Fatima Daas".)
       At times, there does seem to be too little: Fatima states: "Nina Gonzalez is the heroine of this story", but there's very little about her relationship with this considerably older woman. The essence is arguably conveyed, yet for a such bold claim one wants to know more about this figure and her influence.
       The Last One is far from a fully-fleshed out novel, but still conveys a lot in this spare presentation. It's telling that she repeats: "My name is Fatima Daas" rather than the more identity-sure: 'I am Fatima Daas', as even her name comes with obligations she does not think she can live up to, as it's: "A name that mustn't be soiled, a name I have to honor". Writing this novel is obviously part of her finding herself, as it were, but it still feels like a work in progress; it's a lot she wants to figure out, and it remains something of a jumble. (In a way however this also makes it feel even more true-to-life: there are few pat answers to some of these big questions, and many personal struggles often remain less than fully resolved.)
       The almost incantatory style makes for a quick and quite gripping read, and it is an evocative personal story -- even as there are too many points one would wish for at least some more elaboration on.

- M.A.Orthofer, 3 December 2021

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Links:

The Last One: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature

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About the Author:

       French author Fatima Daas was born in 1995.

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© 2021-2022 the complete review

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