Saturday, April 21, 2007

Reading Treat

Every night, I get to go somewhere, to follow a story so tremendously amazing and heartbreaking, that I am having trouble sleeping. My mom lent me this book the other day and urged me to read it. It was in Arabic so I was kind of finding it cumbersome. But then I decided to stop being silly and decided to start reading more Arabic novels in order to strengthen my dwindling Arabic skills.

But once I started, I couldn't stop.

As much as the story is amazing, it sends shivers down my spine.

Its called "The Prisoner" (in Arabic) by Malika OuFakir and Michelle Fitoussi. I found an English version of the book on Amazon. com called "Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail" which was also listed in Oprah's Book Club.

It scares me to read the devestation that happened to this poor family, inflicted upon them by a sel-centered king who has no value for human life. It scares me to know that this has happened in the Arab World, and it scares me even more to think of the other untold stories.

The story is told by Malika, the daughter of a Moroccan General back in the 1970s. Malika was adopted by the King Hassan II and went to live with his siter Lila Mina in a lavish palace where she spent all of her childhood. Although she lived extravagantly, she missed out on her life with her real family. Its heart-wrenching to read the worries from a child's point of view. Her parents were helpless because what the King wants, the King gets.

*Spoiler ahead*

Later on, her father stages a coup against Hassan the Second and is executed on the spot, leaving behind his family who get to experience a rainbow of torture in prison. Her mother, her 3 sisters and 2 brothers, one of them only 2 years old, get whisked away to a Desert prison where they spend 20 years of their lives behind prison gates.

They go through hell, their lives stolen by an unruly, narcasistic King who did not care about the least of any himan rights. Imagine a child who has never seen a newspaper, a car, or the asphalt of the road. They feed on the grass that grows near the prison bars, since they don't get enough food supplies. They get separated into 4 prison cells and they spend 11 years of their lives in separate cells never seeing each other. The mother with Abdulatif, her youngest, Malika with her 3 sisters, and the eldest brother Ra'ouf is locked up in a separate cell. the psychological torture that they go through is heartbreakingly inhuman. They are so close yet so far away. The 2-year-old boy is 22 by the time they escape, having never set eyes on a toy or on a real football field. He grows to love football from the radio that they have to hide so elaborately.
But they device an intricate plan to dig a 5-meter hole to freedom, they have to get past the guards outside, the stray dogs in the desert and they have to get to the city to reach the French Embassy where they plan to take political asylum.
And that's where I reached last night!

I want to go back home as soon as possible, get the kids to bed so I can continue my reading. Will keep you posted on the events of the story when I'm done.

A true page-turner, the book is an excellent read, and an invaluable insight into the injustices that take place behind the media frenzy and the galmor and the politics.

Its a jungle out there.



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