Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Tahar Ben Jelloun

For next time you drink mint-tea...

No glamorous expats here...
Reading this book should be mandatory for anyone who tries to understand this crucial phenomenon in today's Europe of large fluxes of Maghreb immigration. Literature is not Sociology, nor a collection of fictional biographic vignettes can replace statistical analysis, but for the human dimension of what it means to try to reach our shores this book is a precious jewel.
The desperation to quit the Moroccan soil experienced by the youth spending time in the cafés of Tangiers fantasizing about "burning" those last 14 kilometers that separates them from Spain is something that has no longer anything in common with the natural wish we all share for a better life. If you are not touched or moved with the lives depicted here you are ready to vote for the latest Lepenist variant.
Tangiers is not only Paul Bowles, nor William Burroughs, nor Peggy Guggenheim or Malcolm Forbes parties. Neither necessarily only Tahar Ben Jelloun's view-point. But you have to keep your mind open for both faces of the RichWest/North-meets-PoorEast/South coin or everything will become simplistic, crude, de-humanised.
Morocco (in the Tangiers-Marrakesh-Essaouira axis) is not just the exotic playground for expats (sometimes with sad sexual-tourism connotations, as the book depicts too). There is also an internal reality for the local inhabitants to deal with between themselves that TBJ does not try to evade. (It's easy to blame the globalization or the infidels for all the troubles..)
This blogger of yours is not an idealistic "naïf" and takes seriously the need for visas and for policies, in both shores of the Mediterranean, to deal with migration pressures. But one needs books like this from time to time to prevent our hearts to become sclerotic and stone-like..

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