Every writer is (or should be) a reader. It’s pretty simple, really. If you want to be good at what you do, you have to put yourself in your audience’s shoes. I think this is not necessarily true for everyone (I would actually love to hear from you), but I write what I read. That means two things. 1) I write for myself. 2) I know exactly what I want from my novel.
For many of you, this will not be news : I grew up in Morocco. I was 7 when we moved to Casablanca and 17 when we moved out. Sometimes I wish I’d been older. I wish I’d been able to see the landscape, the architecture, the culture and everything Morocco has to offer through the eyes of the observant young adult that I have become. For when you are a child, those things pass you by. They are not made to be noticed by the easily distracted, the innocent and inexperienced, those with a short attention span.
But that is okay. Because despite all of this, I soaked it all up like a sponge. And I have had it in me all those years, growing within the invisible walls of my mind, slowly feeding me words to this novel that is so close to my heart.
As usual, I am digressing. This post is dedicated to three books I recently read and you will soon see the common thread. After my little escapade to Paris a few months ago, I realised I had not read a French book in a while. My will to perfect my English led to such reading choices that I forgot I once used to read in French. And so I went to La Fnac and picked up those three books. Not at random.
You see, my past made those decisions for me. Because it is true… What I read is who I am. The first book I want to share with you has Moroccan origins. The Sand Child by Tahar Ben Jelloun takes us in the depths of post-colonial Morocco and into the life of Ahmed, the eighth daughter of a man who, frustrated by his inability to father a son, raises Ahmed as a boy. The Sacred Night, the second volume published years later, recounts the story from the point of view of Ahmed and in much cruder details. All in all, a powerful and resonating story that proved once more why Ben Jelloun is my favourite author.
The second book – Les Désorientés by Amin Maalouf – takes inspiration from the author’s life and his emigration from war-ridden Lebanon to France. This book was recommended to my by my best friend (who is Lebanese) and I extend the recommendation to all the francophones out there as unfortunately, there seems to be no English translation. For this reason, I shall keep it short and sweet : The Disoriented will touch the hearts of anyone who lives far from home, anyone who has seen war and been forced to make life-changing decisions, anyone who is willing to take a peek behind the curtains and get a real feel of emigration.
The last book was a complete revelation. The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi is an unusual novella, one that grabs you from the very first line and stays with you long after you have put the book down. It is set “somewhere in Afghanistan, or elsewhere” and tells the controversial and moving story of an Afghan woman who is praying at her comatose husband’s bedside. Slowly, her tongue loosens and she lifts the veil that conceals taboos such as female oppression, miscommunication between the two sexes, censorship and sexuality. An explosive and poignant tale of a world that is everything but dead and gone.