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This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben…
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This Blinding Absence of Light

by Tahar Ben Jelloun

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ألــم يطهر الروح وينيرها !! ( )
  fatma92 | Feb 27, 2014 |
تلك العتمة الباهرة

أولئك الذين حاكوا من ظلامِ العتمةِ ثوباً من ضياءِ ​الصبرِ و الشجاعةِ .. تُبهرُني أخبارُهم كلما قرأتها​ و مررت بها، فلله در صبرهم و تضحياتهم​

عزيز بنبين، هو أحد العسكريين المتورطين في انقلاب ع​1971م ، والمنفيين إلى معتقل تازمامارت الرهيب ، والذي خ​رج شبحاً إنسانياً بعد أكثرمن ثماني عشرة سنة من الع​تمة ، ليبهرَ بوجعِه و ضياءِ صبرِهِ قلمَ الطاهر بن ​

من أراد لقلبه أن يرقَّ و لعينِه أن تدمعَ فعليه بأد​ب السجون؛ ليقرأ في مآسي القوم و صبرهم على البلاء .​. سيستحقر بعدها ما هو فيه من آلام بل سيستحي حتى من​

هذه شهادة سطرَها التاريخُ بالدماء، تُوضع بجانب أخو​اتها من الشهادات حول العالم، لعلها تنبه يوماً ما أ​عينَ الناس ليفيقوا من تأثير سحر إعلام الطغاة ، و ل​يعلموا أنه مهما طال الزمن فأولئك الطغاة راحلون و ل​ا شك ، و أن ما يبقى و سيذكره التاريخ هو صبر من صبَ​رَ في وجه الظلم ، أما أولئك الطغاة فلن يذكرهم التا​

اللهم فرق بينهم وبين ما يحبون كما فرقوا بين الأب و​ابنته، وبين الأم و ولدها، و بين الزوج وزوجته .. و ​أرنا عجائب قدرتك في كل من طغى و تكبر، يا رب العالم​


( )
  AmrAzzazi | Feb 27, 2014 |
How can a book about 18 years in prison in appalling conditions be so beautiful?

In 1971 a small group of army officers attempted a coup d'etat against Moroccan king Hassan II; it failed and they were arrested. Having spent several years in a standard prison (and already able to see the end of their sentences), they were unexpectedly transferred to a specially-created secret prison where they spent 18 years in small cells designed so no light came in (hence the title), and in which it was impossible to stand up.

Ben Jelloun's novel is a fictionalised account of life in the prison at Tazmamart, based on the story of one particular survivor, the narrator. Ben Jelloun's slightly detached style lends itself perfectly to describing the prisoners' life; I had to stop occasionally to take in what he was saying, not because it wasn't clear, but so as to let it sink in. I think he almost gives you a choice - you can read on quickly, or you can stop and think about what he's saying. There are descriptions of conditions so inhumane as to be almost unthinkable...and accounts of what the men did to counter them. One kept track of time over the years. One recited the Koran, teaching it to the others. The narrator, a cultured, well-educated man, recited books he had read - from memory. There are also matter-of-fact descriptions of descent into madness, of drawn-out, painful deaths in lonely cells...and of the careful burials accorded to each victim (the only time the men were allowed outside).

In a sense, all of human life is here in this small closed space - the cruelty of those responsible, the indifference of those who could change things but didn't, the quick deaths of the prisoners who gave up...and the breath-taking strength of character of those who didn't. It's the last that makes the book so beautiful, together with Ben Jelloun's style.

Whilst the English translation won the IMPAC award, when the original came out in 2001 it caused great controversy. The survivor on whom the narrator was based, Aziz Binebine, distanced himself from Ben Jelloun and the book in an open letter (he objected to the way in which the book had been produced and to some of the terms of the contract, and he says he was forced into the open letter because Ben Jelloun wouldn't communicate with him directly). Meanwhile Ben Jelloun was widely criticised for not having raised his voice and denounced Tazmamart earlier; he countered that like all Moroccans, he had been prevented from speaking out by fear (particularly understandable in his case, I'd say, since he was imprisoned by the regime for a couple of years as a young man).

Whilst the controversy raises what I think are fascinating questions about the role and responsibility of the writer, I'm not sure it detracts from this novel itself, which is a great work of fiction - and one without which I, for one, would still be ignorant of these events. I've often said on LT that one mark of good fiction, for me, is that it makes me want to go and find out about what actually happened, and that was the case here. ( )
5 vote rachbxl | Jan 23, 2012 |
This novel is based on real events, and is drawn from the testimony of a former inmate of Tazmamart prison in Morocco, where a group of young cadets is imprisoned after a failed coup attempt in which they unwittingly participated. Their cells are so small they cannot stand upright or stretch out full-length, and they are kept in constant darkness. They subsist on water and 'starch,' which they are given once a day. One by one, they begin to die, each in a unique and horrific manner (poisoned by thousands of roach eggs, stung by hundreds of scorpions, let your imagination do the rest).

Each cadet has a function in the loose society that is formed in the prison, and the narrator's function is that of storyteller: he relates the stories of books he has read and movies he has seen to keep the minds of the other prisoners occupied: 'My friends, I would like your attention and absolute quiet, because I am going to take you to America in the 1950's.' Thus begins a surreal narration of A Streetcar Named Desire. The other prisoners can hardly believe the scene of Marlon Brandon on his knees bellowing, 'Stella! Stella!'

He can contemplate a single word, 'coffee,' for an entire day, ending in a 'palace where a king or prince will not get out of bed until he has had two cups of a good brisk arabica imported from Costa Rica, roasted by Italians, and prepared by a Neapolitan chef.'

Despite the grim inhumanity of the subject matter, the small details of the prisoners' endurance prevent the novel from being totally bleak. I highly recommend this book.

4 1/2 stars ( )
2 vote arubabookwoman | Dec 10, 2010 |
Tar Ben Jelloun listened to the stories of one of the survivors of Tazmamart and then crafted those stories into a first person account of one man's experiences during his nineteen years of incarceration in the prison.

A year after a failed coup d'état, 58 men were transferred from their normal prison to a new facility built underground as "a dungeon designed to be in eternal darkness." There they were placed in 6' x 3' cells where they could not stand upright, with a 4" hole in the floor as a toilet and a tiny pipe to the surface (shielded against light passing down it) for air.

They were rarely tortured—instead, the intention was to let them die as slowly as could be contrived from the conditions in their cells...most of the original inmates obliged, as well as many political prisoners who were added later.

They had no protection against the bitter cold and damp. They were given one small meal a day of watery starch noodles. They were given no medical treatment regardless of what happened to them. Men died from tuberculosis, starvation, scorpion bites (the cells were infested), eating tainted food and infections. The guards even watched as one man was even eaten alive by insects once he developed gangrene. Efforts were made to prevent them from committing suicide as an escape. All in utter darkness. Those who survived were crippled physically as well as emotionally; several went insane.

Only after decades did a guard's leaked information lead to Amnesty International's intervention and the closing of the prison.

The resulting novel is disturbing and moving, a testament to inhumanity and endurance. If you have a tolerance for reading this, I strongly recommend this book. ( )
11 vote TadAD | Jul 9, 2010 |
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Ik heb lang gezocht naar de zwarte steen die de ziel zuivert van de dood.
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Original title: Cette aveuglante absence de lumière
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 014303572X, Paperback)

An immediate and critically acclaimed bestseller in France, This Blinding Absence of Light is the latest work by internationally renowned author Tahar Ben Jelloun, the first North African winner of the Prix Goncourt and winner of the Prix Mahgreb. Crafting real life events into narrative fiction, Ben Jelloun reveals the horrific story of the desert concentration camps in which King Hassan II of Morocco held his political enemies in underground cells with no light and only enough food and water to keep them lingering on the edge of death. Working closely with one of the survivors, Ben Jelloun narrates the story in the simplest of language and delivers a shocking novel that explores both the limitlessness of inhumanity and the impossible endurance of the human will.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:05 -0400)

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"Ben Jelloun crafts a horrific real-life narrative into fiction to tell the appalling story of the desert concentration camps in which King Hassan II of Morocco held his political enemies under the most harrowing conditions. Not until September 1991, under international pressure , was Hassan's regime forced to open these desert hellholes. A handful of survivors - livng cadavers who had shrunk by over a foot in height - emerged from the six-by-three-foot cells in which they had been held underground for decades." "Working closely with one of the survivors, Ben Jelloun eschewed the traditional novel format and wrote the book in the simplest of language, reaching always for the most basic of words, the most correct descriptions. The result is a shocking novel that explores both the limitlessness of inhumanity and the impossible endurance of the human will."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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