MESSAOUDA by Abdelhak Serhane


Email this review


First published in France in 1983, this is an autobiographical first novel--told in almost hallucinatory fragments--about a Moroccan boy's childhood in a village in the Atlas Mountains. Serhane himself narrates the story of growing up during the 50's in the primitive Muslim town of Azrou--a place under the domination of the ""Nazarenes,"" or French Christians. His father, Ba Driss, is a carpenter, a cruel, brutal man whom the young Abdelhak hates and fears. His mother, Mi, ""in all her Moroccan woman's desolation,"" tells him story after story about Ba Driss' perfidy and bestial sexual appetites, and Serhane begins to fear his own emerging sexual desires. When Ba Driss finally leaves the family to move to another village (and another woman), Serhane grows up on streets and back alleys full of superstition, squalor and misery. He finally escapes into young manhood and goes to visit his father, full of dreams of revenge, but on seeing the old man, ""still so proud and so mediocre,"" he can go through only the greeting formality of kissing his hand. A difficult novel, full of dreamlike scenes and fevered, unfocused eroticism. But, still, an interesting portrait of a culture, and helped along by Mark Thompson's impeccable translation from the French.

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 1986
Publisher: Carcanet--dist. by Harper & Row