Photo: Sophie Bassouls
Youssef Fadel is a novelist, playwright and screenwriter, born in Casablanca, Morocco, in 1949. During the so-called ‘Years of Lead’ in Morocco, he was imprisoned in the notorious Moulay al-Sheriff prison between 1974 and 1975. He has published a number of plays and novels. His first play, The Barber in the Poor District, was made into a film directed by Mohamed al-Rakab in 1982. His novel Hashish (2000) won the Grand Atlas Prize in 2001. His ninth novel, A Rare Blue Bird that Flies with Me (2013), was IPAF-shortlisted in 2014 and won the Moroccan Book Prize in the same year.
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As his wife delivers their child in the next room, a man wakes from the nightmare of a teenage girl’s body lying beneath his bed. In this twilight before birth, Fadel’s epic novel catches us in the confusion between exaltation and despair. The girl, Farah, once dreamed of being a singer in Casablanca, a city standing in the shadow of the tallest minaret in the world. Illuminating the aspirations of those just struggling to make a living, this is a novel of power plays and petty jealousies, deceit and corruption, love and loss, written with Fadel’s masterful, narrative control and searing, historical insight.
Hassan makes a living in his native Marrakesh as a comic writer and performer, through his satirical sketches critical of Morocco's rulers. Yet when he is suddenly conscripted into a losing war in the Sahara, and drafted to a far-flung desert outpost, it seems that all is lost. Could his estranged father, close to power as the king's private jester, have something to do with his sudden removal from the city? And will he ever see his beloved wife Zinab again? With flowing prose and black humor, Youssef Fadel subtly tells the story of 1980s Morocco.
Review: Wawa Book Review
Spring, 1990. After years of searching in vain, a stranger passes a scrap of paper to Zina. Its from Aziz: the man who vanished the day after their wedding almost two decades ago. It propels Zina on a final quest for a secret desert jail in southern Morocco, where her husband crouches in despair, dreaming of his former life.Youssef Fadel pays powerful testament to a terrible period in Moroccos history, known as the Years of Cinders and Lead, and masterfully evokes the suffering inflicted on those who supported the failed coup against King Hassan II in 1972.