Joseph Andras: Remembering a Man Executed for His Ideals

In Tomorrow They Won’t Dare to Murder Us, recently translated into English, Joseph Andras, 32, portrays the final days of Fernand Iveton, a communist activist sent to the guillotine during the Algerian War for having planted a bomb that never exploded. The book won the 2016 Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman, but the author refused the award.
Courtesy of Joseph Andras

Fernand Iveton never killed anyone. As a member of the Algerian Communist Party, he agreed to leave a bomb in an empty gasworks, ensuring no loss of life. This Algerian-born, anti-colonialist, trade unionist Frenchman joined the party at the age of 20. He had heard stories of the violence carried out by the colonists and militias, and wanted to raise awareness of their crimes. In the end, the bomb was defused before it exploded. Iveton was charged with terrorism and was executed before his thirtieth birthday, on February 11, 1957, after being tortured and then sentenced at a summary trial. “I am not Muslim […] but I am a European Algerian,” he wrote from his prison cell. “I knew my place was alongside those engaged in the fight for liberation.”

Throughout his dense, jolting narrative, set to the tick-tock of the bomb, Joseph Andras shifts between two temporalities: the final days of a condemned man reading Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, and his past leading up to the failed attack. Remaining as faithful as possible to the events and feelings of the time, he shines a light on a story buried under what historian Jean-Luc Einaudi called “the silence of the state.”

Tomorrow They Won’t Dare to Murder Us was Andras’ first novel and caused a stir when it was published in France in May 2016 due to the still-sensitive topic, the strength of the keenly lyrical writing, and the fact that the author refused all public appearances. Awarded the Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman, despite not being a favorite among the final nominations, the writer refused the prize and the accompanying check for 3,800 euros. His press secretary gave a statement explaining that the author’s “vision of literature [was] not compatible with the idea of a competition.”

Ever since, the writer has hidden behind a pseudonym, provides the same photograph to the media, and has published four other books without ever breaking his silence. After writing a long poem about the port of Le Havre, performed by slam poet D’ de Kabal, he traveled to New Caledonia in the footsteps of Alphonse Dianou, an independentist Kanak activist killed by the French army during the 1988 Ouvéa Cave hostage taking. In keeping with his last two works, on the young Ho Chi Minh’s years in Paris and violence against animals, Andras is building a powerful, political oeuvre driven by an extraordinary talent for both language and literature.


Tomorrow They Won’t Dare to Murder Us: A Novel by Joseph Andras, translated from French by Simon Leser, Verso Books, 2021. 144 pages, 18.95 dollars.

Article published in the September 2021 issue of France-AmériqueSubscribe to the magazine.