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The author I'm most excited to read in 2017

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Abdellah Taia is one of those authors that captivate you when you read about his work and you are looking forward to reading any of his books, but you never find the right moment but you're convinced anyway that he will become one of your favorite authors.

Infidels

Set in Salé, Morocco—the hometown Abdellah Taïa fled but to which he returns again and again in his acclaimed fiction and films—Infidels follows the life of Jallal, the son of a prostitute witch doctor—"a woman who knew men, humanity, better than anyone. In sex. Beyond sex." As a ten-year-old sidekick to his mother, Jallal spits in the face of her enemies both real and imagined. The cast of characters that rush into their lives are unforgettable for their dreams of love and belonging that unravel in turn. Built as a series of monologues that are emotionally relentless—a mix of confession, heart's murmuring, and shouting match—the book follows Jallal out of boyhood on the path to Jihad. It's a path that surprises even him.

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An Arab Melancholia

I had to rediscover who I was. And that's why I left the apartment.... And there I was, right in the heart of the Arab world, a world that never tired of making the same mistakes over and over.... I had no more leniency when it came to the Arab world... None for the Arabs and none for myself. I suddenly saw things with merciless lucidity....-- An Arab MelancholiaSale, near Rabat. The mid 1980s. A lower-class teenager is running until he's out of breath. He's running after his dream, his dream to become a movie director. He's running after the Egyptian movie star, Souad Hosni, who's out there somewhere, miles away from this neighborhood--which is a place the teenager both loves and hates, the home at which he is not at home, an environment that will only allow him his identity through the cultural lens of shame and silence. Running is the only way he can stand up to the violence that is his Morocco.Irresistibly charming, angry, and wry, this autobiographical novel traces the emergence of Abdellah Taia's identity as an openly gay Arab man living between cultures. The book spans twenty years, moving from Sale, to Paris, to Cairo. Part incantation, part polemic, and part love letter, this extraordinary novel creates a new world where the self is effaced by desire and love, and writing is always an act of discovery.

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Another Morocco

Tangier is a possessed city, haunted by spirits of different faiths. When we have literature in our blood, in our souls, it's impossible not to be visited by them. -- from Another MoroccoIn 2006, Abdellah Taia returned to his native Morocco to promote the Moroccan release of his second book, Le rouge du tarbouche ( The Red of the Fez). During this book tour, he was interviewed by a reporter for the French-Arab journal Tel Quel, who was intrigued by the themes of homosexuality she saw in his writing. Taia, who had not publically come out and feared the repercussions for himself and his family of doing so in a country where homosexuality continues to be outlawed, nevertheless consented to the interview and subsequent profile, "Homosexuel envers et contre tous" ("Homosexual against All Odds"). This interview made him the first openly gay writer to be published in Morocco. Another Morocco collects short stories from Taia's first two books, Mon Maroc ( My Morocco) and Le rouge du tarbouche, both published before this pivotal moment. In these stories, we see a young writer testing the porousness of boundaries, flirting with strategies of revelation and concealment. These are tales of life in a working-class Moroccan family, of a maturing writer's fraught relationship with language and community, and of the many cities and works that have inspired him. With a reverence for the subaltern -- for the strength of women and the disenfranchised -- these stories speak of humanity and the construction of the self against forces that would invalidate its very existence. Taia's work is, necessarily, a political gesture.

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