By Tahar Ben Jelloun translated from the French by Linda Coverdale
Published by Arcadia Books in February 2011
In A Palace in the Old Village, Tahar Ben Jelloun further explores themes which are close to his heart: alienation, displacement, identity, home and belonging.
Mohammed has spent the past forty years working in France. As he approaches retirement, he takes stock of his life – his devotion to Islam and to his assimilated children – and decides to return to Morocco, where he spends his life’s savings building the biggest house in the village and waiting for his children and grandchildren to and come be with him.
With a great sense of poetic sensibility, the author vividly depicts immigrant-life in all its colours. Celebrating its many joys while also examining its trappings, he has forged this novel out of his own personal experiences.
Tahar Ben Jelloun was born in Fez, Morocco in 1944. The year before Moroccan independence from France in 1956, his family moved to
Tangier. He studied philosophy at the University of Rabat, and in 1966 was arrested alongside 94 other protestors for taking part in student demonstrations in Casablanca. He spent the following eighteen months in internment camps, here composing his first poetry. He occupied his mind with James Joyce’s Ulysses while in prison – a book smuggled in by his brother.
After his release, Ben Jalloun worked as a teacher of philosophy in Tetuan and Casablanca, before the government decreed that philosophy be taught only in classical Arabic. He sought exile in Paris in 1971, where he wrote for the magazine Souffles and studied for his doctorate in social psychology. His thesis on the sexual misery of North African immigrants in France was published in 1975 as The Highest Solitude. It was his first bestseller, though a prior novel, Harounda (1973) had already won him critical plaudits from Samuel Beckett and Roland Barthes.
Ben Jalloun has written for a range of high-profile European newspapers, including France’s Le Monde, Italy’s La Repubblica and Spain’s El País. He is also the recipient of a number of literary accolades, including the Prix Goncourt for The Sacred Night (1987), and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for This Blinding Absence of Light (2001).
Linda Coverdale has translated more than fifty books, including This Blinding Absence of Light. A Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, she won the 2006 Scott Moncrieff Prize and the 1997 and 2008 French-American Foundation Translation Prize.
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersintranslation/supportedtitles2011/apalaceintheoldvillage/