cover image Silent Day in Tangier

Silent Day in Tangier

Tahar Ben Jelloun, Tahar B. Jelloun. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $17.95 (109pp) ISBN 978-0-15-182631-5

Prolific Moroccan writer Ben Jelloun ( The Sand Child ; The Sacred Night ) portrays the stream of thoughts of one old man as he looks back on his life. Originally written in French, this subtle translation reveals much to the reader about the particulars of life as a middle-class artisan of Morocco while at the same time dealing with universal human themes. It is this incidental unfolding of the similarities as well as the differences between this contemporary, anonymous Moroccan Arab and ourselves that gives an added dimension of empathy and value to these fictional reminiscences. If the dying man does not fully captivate the reader, perhaps it is because he is too clear-sighted and honest in his self-analysis, or too traditional for our tastes. We may finish the book with little sympathy or compassion, but we gain enhanced understanding of the exigencies of existence and a little awe for the tenacity of one irascible old Arab. By this standard, Ben Jelloun's book is a success. (Apr.)