Sunday, April 13, 2008

BOOK: This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun

This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun
translated from the French by Linda Coverdale

novella challenge (190 pages), Orbis Terrarum Challenge, IMPAC Dublin award winner

Although written as a novel, and listed in fiction, this account of life underground in a concentration camp in Morocco is based on interviews Ben Jelloun did with a survivor. This is a harrowing yet beautifully written book. In 1971, an attempted coup was planned against the king of Morocco. The coup failed, and the participants were sentenced to jail, which became for some, a small underground cell, where survival was not possible except for a very few, who lasted twenty years. In 1991 they were released due to international pressure.

The narrator takes us through the thought processes that enabled him to survive. How he erased the images of his family from his mind, how he prayed and was transported away, how he completely separated his body from his mind. He held no thoughts of revenge or hatred and really became a completely pure person, understanding only what is required to survive. And while this is disturbing, watching most of the prisoners die, ultimately it is uplifting, as this one man survives amidst the most horrible conditions. That a person is capable of being that strong and that religious, was quite beautiful.


  1. I'm glad this one was uplifting. I haven't heard of it, but your review makes it sound almost the oppositive of Primo Levi's account of the WWII Holocaust where he eventually lost his faith.

  2. Wow, this sounds fascinating, thanks for telling us about it! And it's about a part of the world I'd like to know more about.

  3. On the "To Be Bought" list with this one. Sounds great!


  4. Oohh, this sounds like a good one!

  5. hey.. this book sounds eerily familiar.. have you read Malika Oufkir's book? Stolen Life: 20 years in a desert jail. It sounds pretty much like this.
    i've written about it here..
    let me know what you think about that!

  6. wow, that sounds like an incredible book! I am always looking for good books about is such a neat and culture-rich nation, it intrigues me.

    Great review!! Thank you!

  7. hey..thanks for the comment:) i think i'll read this anyway.. the one that i read was a true life story and that made it kinda interesting..:) you must read that if you get the time.. will be interested to know what you thought of that after reading this:)


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