The Sacred Night

Overview

The Sacred Night continues the remarkable story Tahar Ben Jelloun began in The Sand Child. Mohammed Ahmed, a Moroccan girl raised as a boy in order to circumvent Islamic inheritance laws regarding female children, remains deeply conflicted about her identity. In a narrative that shifts in and out of reality moving between a mysterious present and a painful past, Ben Jelloun relates the events of Ahmed's adult life. Now calling herself Zahra, she renounces her role as only son and heir after her father's death and...

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Overview

The Sacred Night continues the remarkable story Tahar Ben Jelloun began in The Sand Child. Mohammed Ahmed, a Moroccan girl raised as a boy in order to circumvent Islamic inheritance laws regarding female children, remains deeply conflicted about her identity. In a narrative that shifts in and out of reality moving between a mysterious present and a painful past, Ben Jelloun relates the events of Ahmed's adult life. Now calling herself Zahra, she renounces her role as only son and heir after her father's death and journeys through a dreamlike Moroccan landscape. A searing allegorical portrait of North African society, The Sacred Night uses Arabic fairy tales and surrealist elements to craft a stunning and disturbing vision of protest and rebellion against the strictures of hidebound traditions governing gender roles and sexuality.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Times Literary Supplement

Impressive... Though [the story] suggests a number of allegorical interpretations, the surface of the narrative proceeds with enough sheer pleasure and lack of pretension to deeper meanings to ensure that these are rarely overt... Gender, sexuality, the cultures they impose, and the restrictions imposed on them by cultures, are a form of imprisonment; yet so, too, is the attempt to evade them.

Los Angeles Times

Haunting, often hallucinogenic.

Chicago Tribune

A writer of much originality.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Sequel to The Sandchild and winner of 1987's Prix Goncourt, Ben Jalloun's powerfully imagined, hallucinatory tale of Zahra, ``flower of flowers,'' fraudulently raised in contemporary Morocco as the boy Ahmed by a father ashamed of his brood of daughters, has affinities with the magic realism of Garcia Marquez, Rushdie and others. A victim of what is to her the hypocritical misogyny of Bedouin culture that betrays Islam while piously invoking it, Zahra/Ahmed is afforded rebirth as a beautiful woman by her father at the moment of his death. During his burial, a magnificent stranger riding on horseback--``the Sheikh''--spirits Zahra away, clothed in a bride's golden burnoose, starting her both joyous and tormented odyssey as a woman in a Moslem land. Suffering as both man and woman, Zahra transcends the confining sexism of her culture and reaches an understanding of others' anguish, aided by the blind ``Consul,'' whose lack of sight enables him to see beyond society's categories and appearances. Told in a declamatory, incisive style, Ben Jalloun's perplexing, poetic narrative challenges the reader to see and feel deeply. (July)
Library Journal
The Moroccan author here tells the unusual story of Mohammed Ahmed, who, though born a girl, is raised as a boy by her father in an attempt to spare her the life of virtual slavery suffered by her sisters. The story begins with 1985's The Sand Child and concludes with 1987's Sacred Night. As Ahmed matures, she sheds her disguise and attempts life as a traditional Islamic woman. Definitely not your average coming-of-age story. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Reared as a boy by a father desperate for a son, the lovely Zahra at the age of 20 must enter the world for the first time as a woman. This confusion of sexual roles--a special paradox in an Arab Muslim culture--colors all of her experiences, both real and hallucinatory. Raped by a faceless man and terrified by ghosts, Zahra seems to find a haven with a strange sister and brother: the Seated Woman and a blind Consul. But when a miserly uncle threatens to expose her shameful past, she murders him and is imprisoned for the crime. As Jelloun's vivid, incantatory prose makes clear, it is not her cell but the story of her own life that binds her, causing her to seek ``the pleasure of astonishment, the innocence of knowing the beginning of things.'' A sequel to The Sand Child, winner of the 1987 Prix Goncourt, by a Morocco-born writer now living in Paris.-- L.M. Lewis, Eastern Kentucky Univ., Richmond
Los Angeles Times
Haunting, often hallucinogenic.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801864414
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2000
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 798,182
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.45 (d)

Meet the Author

Tahar Ben Jelloun was born in Fez, Morocco, in 1944 and has lived in France since 1971. An internationally recognized novelist, poet, playwright, and essayist, Ben Jelloun has received numerous awards for his works, including the Prix Maghreb, the Prix des Hemispheres and the Legion of Honor. His books include Solitaire, Silent Day in Tangier, With Downcast Eyes, Corruption, and Racism Explained to My Daughter. He is also a regular contributor to Le Monde. His novel The Sand Child is also available in paperback from Johns Hopkins.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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