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Last Friend
     

Last Friend

by Tahar Ben Jelloun, Kevin Michel Cape, Hazel Rowley
 

The Last Friend, the new novel from internationally acclaimed author Tahar Ben Jelloun, winner of the 2004 International Dublin/IMPAC award, is a Rashamon-like tale of friendship and betrayal set in twentieth century Tangier. Written in Ben Jelloun’s inimitable and powerfully direct style, the novel explores the twists and turns of an intense

Overview

The Last Friend, the new novel from internationally acclaimed author Tahar Ben Jelloun, winner of the 2004 International Dublin/IMPAC award, is a Rashamon-like tale of friendship and betrayal set in twentieth century Tangier. Written in Ben Jelloun’s inimitable and powerfully direct style, the novel explores the twists and turns of an intense thirty-year friendship between two young men struggling to find their identities and sexual fulfillment in Morocco in the late 1950s, a complex and contradictory society both modern and archaic.

From their carefree university days through their brutal imprisonment and ultimate release, the two rely on each other for physical and psychological survival, forging bonds not easily broken. Each narrator tells his version of the story, painting a vivid portrait of life lived within and in opposition to the moral strictures of North Africa.

Set against a backdrop of repression and disillusionment, The Last Friend is a tale of loss of innocence and a nation’s coming of age.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"What Ben Jelloun does brilliantly is write with a kind of refreshing candor that demystifies the Arab world." —Paris Voice

"Perfectly captures and explains the human condition." —Le Nouvel Observateur

"A seductive, lyrical novel exploring the seeming betrayal of a lifelong friendship." —French Book News

Publishers Weekly
In his affecting new novel, Moroccan-French novelist Ben Jalloun (The Blinding Absence of Light) eloquently portrays postcolonial political unrest in Morocco through the long, ultimately ruptured friendship between two men. The novel is set over 40 years of Moroccan history, beginning in 1960 (a few years after Moroccan independence from France), when the two friends, Ali and Mamed, attend a French school in Tangier. The story tracks their joint political activism and imprisonment in the mid-'60s, professional and romantic successes, and marital disappointment. The two voices share the narrative evenly: first, Ali, an academic, tells his side of their falling-out. Mamed, a doctor who in later years moves with his family to Sweden, ails from a "strange, neurotic relationship with [his] homeland" and, eventually, from lung cancer. Mamed precipitates a self-protective rift with Ali before dying. A long posthumous letter to Ali explains that Mamed had hoped to spare their friendship from the ravages of death-and yet, has Mamed acted finally from jealousy and spite? Their friendship becomes a journey through their Moroccan heritage, skillfully navigated by Ben Jalloun. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Can a 30-year friendship be destroyed by a letter? In the latest by Moroccan-French novelist Jelloun, winner of the International Dublin/IMPAC Award in 2004, an ordinary friendship between two men is challenged during a time of great political uncertainty in Morocco. The effect of the letter-and its effect on the friendship-is known from the start, but the contents of the letter is kept secret for most of the book. The story begins in 1960s Tangier, when Ali and Mamed meet as 15-year-old classmates. Their relationship initially revolves around sexual experimentation and the questioning of authority and tradition. Ali then moves to Canada to study film, and Mamed goes to medical school in France. When they return for summer vacation, they are imprisoned as student activists, and their shared ordeal seals their friendship. Mamed eventually becomes a doctor, moving to Stockholm and getting a position with the World Health Organization; Ali stays in Morocco and becomes a professor of geography. The narrative is told from two viewpoints: first Ali recounts their history, then Mamed tells his side of the same story. A mutual friend, Ramon, shares his perspective in a short chapter that reconciles the two versions. Reminiscent of Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner, this very literary novel is recommended for academic libraries or serious literature collections in large public libraries.-Debbie Bogenschutz, Cincinnati State Technical & Community Coll. Lib. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In this consideration of the meaning of friendship, desertion and lies become an expression of loyalty. Mamed and Ali have been best friends since their school days in Tangiers. They discover sex together, in brothels and with their willing but necessarily circumspect peers-girls who cheerfully embrace sodomy as a means of preserving their virginity for marriage. Through aimlessness as much as conviction, they become involved in left-wing politics, and both are imprisoned. In prison, each man saves the other's life. Although both marry women who are jealous of the friendship, it survives, remaining the main relationship in the men's lives even after Mamed leaves Tangiers to take a long-term job in Stockholm. One day, without warning and for apparently fanciful reasons, Mamed turns on Ali, brutally accuses him of using the friendship to steal from Mamed's family, and refuses to ever see or speak to him again. Ben Jelloun (Islam Explained, 2002, etc.) tells his story in three first-person narratives: The first is from the perspective of Ali, the abandoned friend; then Mamed tells the same history, exposing the reason for his rejection of Ali; finally, a mutual friend of both adds a postscript. This structure is employed to depict the delicate shades of difference between similar minds. The tone is placid, at times almost bored. The only characters of importance are the friends, and the book suggests that the ultimate significance of a life can be expressed in a single relationship. In making that relationship humdrum, passionless and lacking in substance, the author has produced a work that may be likened to a long, disappointed sigh. A gentle, intelligent exercise in nihilism: Life,Jelloun seems to say with a pained smile, is hardly worth discussing.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781595580085
Publisher:
New Press, The
Publication date:
02/01/2006
Pages:
186
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.70(h) x (d)

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What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

What Ben Jelloun does brilliantly is write with a kind of refreshing candor that demystifies the Arab world. (Paris Voice)

A profound and moving novel. (Le Monde)

Daring and introspective, The Last Friend should bring [Ben Jelloun] the wide readership that has eluded him in this country. (The Nation)

Absorbing, like a meditation, a trance. (The Daily Telegraph, London)

…a seductive, lyrical novel exploring the seeming betrayal of a lifelong friendship (French Book News)

Meet the Author


Winner of the 1994 Prix Maghreb, Tahar Ben Jelloun was born in 1944 in Fez, Morocco, and emigrated to France in 1961. A novelist, essayist, critic, and poet, he is a regular contributor to Le Monde, La Répubblica, El País, and Panorama. His novels include The Sacred Night, which received the Prix Goncourt in 1987, and Corruption (The New Press).

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