"The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris" by Leila Marouane; "At the Cafe" by Mohammed Dib" and "Talismano" by Abdelwahab Meddeb

The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris - Leïla Marouane

A devoutly religious Muslim is conflicted between tradition and modernity: a subject done a million times over the years but Algerian author Leïla Marouane gives it a unique twist. It is written by a woman in the voice of a man---and she pulls it off extremely well. The protagonist is a Franco-Algerian raised by a very traditional Islamic family living in the suburbs of Paris. He decides he wants to live a more “Francophone” life, even changing his name to reflect his newfound identity. He settles into a brand new luxury apartment in the most fashionable district in Paris and the hunt for women begins. Still connected to his very traditional family, he is often conflicted, guilt-ridden but determined to carve out a life of his own, a life free from obligations to his religion and his family. A man balanced between two worlds, where cultures and ideologies often clash. At times it’s quite bizarre but it is well worth the read. Highly recommended.

Rating: * * * *

 

At the Café/The Talisman - Mohammed Dib

A collection of short stories by the renowned Algerian author, poet and journalist. Many of these tales reflect the days of French colonialism and the struggle for independence and the effect French occupation had on Algerian culture. Highly existential and very enjoyable. Recommended.

Rating: * * * *

 

Talismano - Abdelwahab Meddeb

From Tunisia. Reads like a fever dream, very reminiscent of the writing style of Spanish author Juan Goytisolo’s early works. Difficult and full of symbolism. A knowledge---even a little---of Arab/North African history would help. The narrator returns to Tunisia and walks the streets of his hometown, the past and present colliding and interweaving. Not a traditional novel by any means but a damn good one. The language is superb, often times poetic, inventive. This type of novel isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but for me it reminds me of some of the best experimental writing to come out of the post-modern era. Highly recommended but not an easy read.

Rating: * * * * *

 
 
 
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