TEA IN THE HAREM by Mehdi Charef, translated by Ed Emery (Serpent’s Tail: $10.95). This bitterly angry novel presents an unflinching portrait of life among the dark-skinned foreign workers who inhabit the slums of Paris. Uneducated and unemployable, Majid, a young man in his early 20s, finds himself caught between two cultures. His original home in Algeria has receded to a vague memory; the French want nothing to do with him. He spends his days with other expatriate drop-outs, watching the children around him grow up taking on “the characteristics of concrete: they’re dry and cold and hard, to all appearances indestructible--but they’ve got hidden cracks . . . These cracks come back and they eat into your soul. If you don’t do something about them, you find yourself swallowed up, swollen, stifled by a desire to scream, a desire to explode.” The anger and violence Charef depicts always have characterized the urban underclass, but his character’s acceptance of their wretched status is new. Majid and his friends feel so impotent, so isolated from any value system, they don’t even aspire to a better life.