Morocco lives in me.

 

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.

Saadian Tombs in Marrakech

Splendid photo of the Saadian Tombs in Marrakech – by Pavlina Jane (Creative Commons)

 

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.

la nuit sacrée TBJYou 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 –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.

Syngué-Sabour-romanThe 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.

 

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18 responses to “Morocco lives in me.

  1. I think you write about what you feel and experience, not what you read. Some of your posts have moved me because they are from the heart, making you vulnerable. Readers like to feel what is being written.

    I didn’t know, or had forgotten, you spent your formative years in Morocco. This helps to explain your cultural maturity. Do you also speak French?

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    • I think I more meant “I write what I like to read” but I fully understand your point.
      It is difficult for a writer to embrace their vulnerability and use it to their advantage… In my blog posts, I write the way I feel, things are a little more complex in my novel.
      Yes, I grew up with French and am ashamed to say I speak it better than my own native language…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I admire people that speak several languages. They are difficult for me. Canada has 2 official languages – English and French – and we had to study French throughout school, and I visited Quebec frequently to practice. I went to university in southern California and studied Spanish while there, and visited Mexico frequently to practice. Today, I can barely read either.

    I write for a different reason, and wrote “Why I blog” a couple of years ago – https://pedalworks.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/why-i-blog-2/. I feel pretty much the same way today, although I seem to have a monumental block at the moment.

    I am looking forward to reading your novel. You are doing a good job of creating interest in it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I studied Spanish in school and although I was good at it, I have forgotten a lot of it now because of the lack of practice… I do love languages though. I will always pick a book in its original language if I can understand it.
      Thank you! I have to admit I originally started this blog to put myself out there and build a writer’s platform but it has grown to be a lot more than that and the “novel awareness” is only a bonus :)

      Do you know why you’re feeling stuck when it comes to blogging? It is a lack of ideas or motivation?

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  3. I’m not sure. I need a change. I am leaving for the cottage in a couple of weeks for the summer. I will be on my own most of the time without TV and limited internet. I’ll do a lot of cycling, reading, and maybe writing. I’m hoping the change of scenery will spark a fire in me :)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have no doubt it will! I felt very inspired when I went home in Bulgaria for a week and I’m sure you will feel the same way! Do you usually spend your summers in the cottage? Sounds idyllic… :)

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    • No. I usually try to spend 2-4 months there. This will be the first time for such an extended stay. I am able to work “virtually” so I will work a few hours a day which allows me to stay longer and enjoy the warmer weather.

      The cottage is 4,000 km away. I am unable to visit often enough, and this summer I hope to decide whether to sell it, or not. I have been trying for a decade but every time I return, I realize how much it means to me. It is the one place I feel truly “at home”, and to sell it is to let go …

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  5. Working from home is both a blessing and a curse.

    4,000 km… wow. I have just checked and the distance between my current location and hometown is 2,486.3 km. That involves crossing the Channel and five countries! This is just an idea of how big Canada is. I really want to visit someday.

    I can’t imagine what a terrible dilemma this is but for what it’s worth, selling the one place you feel truly at home sounds like a milder version of self-harming (sorry, couldn’t find a better comparison).

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  6. Again, I love the music you shared with this post. I also write what I want to read, and I write to explore ideas, to see where they will take me and what I will learn. My children grew up on a sailboat when we traveled around the world, and they tell me sometimes they wish they had experienced all that as young adults instead of as children who sometimes took those experiences for granted. Yet I know those experiences are part of who they are today, and enriches their lives in ways they may never know. I’m sure the same is for your Moroccan experiences. The books you share, are any in English? Alas, I am a monolinguist.

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  7. Ellie, first of all, that music brought tears to my eyes. I don’t know why because I don’t understand what he’s singing, but it was so beautiful it moved me.
    Your post made me remember the longing I had for Poland. I was very young (9 y.o.) when we moved to the US, and this longing haunted me so much. I am happy I decided to move to this country and explore it for myself. But I must say, it is nothing like I imagined it would be, and I think it might be the same for you. The Morocco in your head is probably not the same as in real life.
    Morocco is very intriguing and I hope to one day visit it. Do you ever go there?
    My husband was in Algeria recently and he bought me a French translation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I think I may have to brush up on my French.
    Thank you for the book recommendations, I have added them to my growing Amazon wish list.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. :) It is so hauntingly beautiful and now you’ve made me want to find a translation of those lyrics. Sometimes you just can’t explain it but music does its thing, I have been moved by the oddest of songs…
    I know what you are saying and despite knowing you are right, I like to preserve this idealised image of Morocco that I have kept from my childhood. I have been told many things about how much it has changed but I am yet to see for myself. I haven’t been back in over 6 years… I think…
    Are you back in Poland now?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: May 29 #LinkYourLife Roundup | The Honeyed Quill·

  10. I already enjoy the writings of Tahar Ben Jelloun and Amin Maalouf – thanks to this post, I will now check out the final book you mentioned in the hope of discovering another author to inspire me :-)

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  11. Pingback: The world is 4.543 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as…? | A Writer's Caravan·

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