LION MOUNTAIN by Mustapha Tlili


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A moving story of courage and loss, the first book by Tunisian writer Tlili to appear in English. Set in a nameless North African country, once a French colony but now ruled by a dictatorial president and his party, the narrator, in a series of flashbacks, tells the story of his widowed mother's doomed efforts to defy the new totalitarian government. Living in a small village, Lion Mountain (founded, according to legend, by the Moslem warlords who fled Andalusia after its reconquest by the ""infidel""), his mother Horia owns one of the freest properties. The property, watered by a clear stream, looks across the plain to the mountain, a mountain sacred to her ancestors. Unlike their local successors, the French--except when they needed soldiers at the beginning of WW II--had left the villagers in peace. One of their recruits had been Saad, a servant of Horia's who lost his leg in the war. Helped by Saad and the Simpleton and the advice of the local imam, Horia prospers at first after the war. She sends her two sons abroad for their education, but only the narrator returns each year for a visit; the other son has become involved in politics and dares not return. The new regime increasingly interferes in the villagers' lives, and Saad is tortured when he refuses to join the Party. As the years pass, tourists discover the village, and the government decides to build a hotel and restaurant right in front of Horia's home, effectively blocking her view of her beloved mountain. Now, old and lonely, Horia and Saad, both a little crazy, decide to prevent this. But their plan goes horribly wrong and both are killed by the soldiers' gunfire. Not quite Camus, Tlili nevertheless vividly evokes, in a similar deceptively simple style, the North African landscape and people. And his description of the willful destruction of a small paradise is movingly elegiac. A promising debut.

Pub Date: May 23rd, 1990
ISBN: 0894108786
Publisher: Arcade--dist. by Little, Brown