A rare thing: an erotic novel from the contemporary Muslim world, written by a woman to boot.
The pseudonymous Nedjma’s autobiographical story (published originally in French) follows a young Moroccan woman’s sexual life—from adolescent lesbian explorations on to the passionate affaire de coeur of adulthood, along with the disastrous marriage in between. In rural Imchouk, where she was raised, teenaged Badra is married off to the town’s notary, a middle-aged bore who has already renounced two wives for their failure to bear him a child. Neither does Badra have luck conceiving, and after a few years of being treated no better than a womb in waiting, she runs away to Tangiers to live with her modern, imposing Aunt Selma. At one of the many society parties the two attend, Badra meets Driss, a wealthy doctor and a sexual hurricane with a Pygmalion complex. Badra makes his seduction easy, and the two embark on a ten-year affair in a culture where women are either married or virgins. It’s the 1960s, and Tangiers is filled with rich hippies and rock stars, mini skirts and whiskey, but, as always with erotica, the world shrinks to the confines of the bedroom. Badra’s escapades are hardly awakenings to a repressed sexuality (in flashbacks to her life in Imchouk, she tells of being fascinated by the town’s whores, of being groped by a stranger and loving it, of hoping that one day her vagina would be the most beautiful in the world). Instead, her adventures are affirmations of what she always knew her body deserved. At once crude and elegant, the novel succeeds in keeping to that thin line between the obscene and the sensual. The minutiae of a body’s sexual functions often make for laughable prose, but Nedjma glorifies the sex act, raises it to the station of a religious ecstasy, something akin to a prayer.
Though at times haphazard in its translation, a bold contribution to erotic literature.