cover image Corruption -Op/056

Corruption -Op/056

Tahar Ben Jelloun, Tahar B. Jelloun. New Press, $17.95 (136pp) ISBN 978-1-56584-295-3

Ben Jelloun, a Moroccan emigre to France who won the 1987 Prix Goncourt for his novel The Sacred Night, weaves an intricate tale about a Moroccan man's slow capitulation to the lure of infidelity and bribery. Mourad, an engineer by training, works for the Ministry of Development in Casablanca; no new construction can proceed without his approval of the plans. Although his supervisor rationalizes bribery as ``supplementary tax in disguise,'' Mourad is scrupulous in all his dealings-so much so that he is derided as ``Mr. Morality.'' But as his meager salary fails to satisfy his controlling, hostile wife, Hlima, Mourad finds the allure of money-and the romantic overtures of his lovely, unhappy cousin Najia-increasingly hard to ignore. Casablanca, grubby and frenetic, is as vividly evoked through Ben Jelloun's taut, understated prose as are the moral entanglements and spates of hallucinatory guilt that beset his protagonist; the only missteps in this remarkable novel are the characterizations of Mourad's son and of Najia, who function too explicitly as moral spokespersons. (Oct.)