Thursday, April 16, 2009

Essential reading list - Fez & Morocco

The View from Fez gets a lot of enquiries about what books to read before coming to Morocco. So we have decided to make up a suggested reading list of books that we and others have found invaluable. If you wish to purchase a book simply click on the linked book title.

Morocco (Country Guide)

Simply the best and most up to date guide book available. This is the 2011 edition

Fez Encounter

Discover twice the city in half the time with this is essential pocket sized guide book for Fez

…full-color pull-out map to help you navigate the medina with ease
…our resident author, Helen Ranger, recommends the best sights, restaurants, shops and entertainment
…unique itineraries and highlights to make the most of a short break in the world's last intact Medina.
…local experts reveal Fez’s secrets: from Si Mohammed el-Amrani on medicinal herbs to Dr. Armand Guigui on Jewish heritage in the Mellah.

Moroccan Arabic: Lonely Planet Phrasebook

Don't leave home without it! It is very easy to use and the locals will appreciate even a few well chosen phrases.

Morocco - Culture Smart!
a quick guide to customs and etiquette

Jillian York's insiders view of how not to mess things up! A sharp guide for the unwary.

A House in Fez: Building a Life in the Ancient Heart of Morocco

Suzanna Clarke's bestseller is a real insight into life in Fez - not just about restoration but wonderful and heart-warming descriptions of everyday life in the Medina. There are English, Australian, American and Korean editions.

Lords of the Atlas: The Rise and Fall of the House of Glaoua, 1893-1956

British author Gavin Maxwell (Ring of Bright Water) details the daily life, customs, and rituals in pre-independence Morocco and of recounts the rise and fall of El Hadj T'hani El Glaoui, the legendary tribal warlord through whom the French ruled one of their prize colonies in North Africa. He shows how the blend of Berber, Arab, and black African races created an extraordinary cultural mosaic and explains how the French colonialists recruited the Atlas Mountain tribal warlords to subdue the other tribes. As the chief beneficiary of this policy, El Glaoui was able to rule most of southern Morocco in an absolute fashion, until Morocco's independence from France in 1956 brought an end to the rule of a very colorful warlord. The book contains many superb color photographs that enhance Maxwell's lively narrative.

Fez: City of Islam - Titus Burkhardt

Fez: City of Islam is undoubtedly one of Titus Burckhardt's masterpieces. It conveys a profound understanding of the sacred roots that nourish Islamic culture and civilisation. As a young man in the 1930s, Burckhardt spent some years in Morocco where he became acquainted with several remarkable representatives of the spiritual heritage of the Maghreb. Although he committed much of this experience to writing, it was not until the 1950s that these writings were developed into a book. In Fez: City of Islam, Burckhardt writes of the history of a people and their religion and history that was often violent, often heroic and sometimes holy. The book relates the teachings, parables and miracles of the saints of many centuries and demonstrates not only the arts and crafts of Islamic civilisation, but also its sciences and administrative skills. Burckhardt's unique black and white photographs from the 1930s are included. In addition 41 new colour illustrations have been specially selected to enhance Burckhardt's originals. Here, text and illustrations come together to provide an insight into the way the life of a people can be transformed at every level by a religious tradition.

Dreams Of Trespass: Tales Of A Harem Girlhood

Fatima Mernissi's rich, magical and absorbing growing-up tale set in a little-known culture reflects many universals about women. The setting is a "domestic harem"in the 1940s city of Fez, where an extended family arrangement keeps the women mostly apart from society, as opposed to the more stereotypical "imperial harem," which historically provided sex for sultans and other powerful court officials. Moroccan sociologist Mernissi ( Islam and Democracy ) charts the changing social and political frontiers and limns the personalities and quirks of her world.

Fiction & Literature

Spider's House: A Novel

This is the classic by Paul Bowles. A must read. The dilemma of the outsider in an alien society, and the gap in understanding between cultures, recurrent themes of Paul Bowles's writings, are dramatized with brutal honesty in this novel set in Fez, Morocco, during that country's 1954 nationalist uprising. Totally relevant to today's political situation in the Middle East and elsewhere, richly descriptive of its setting, and uncompromising in its characterizations, The Spider's House is perhaps Bowles's best, most beautifully subtle novel.

The Cobbler's Apprentice

Sandy McCutcheon's explosive international thriller contains some wonderfully evocative scenes in Fez.
''The best of the current crop of terrorist thrillers ... This intelligent novel blends the machinations of the spy novel with the action and geopolitics of the international thriller to produce a credible and truly scary read ... This is McCutcheon's finest novel to date.'Jeff Popple (Canberra Times)

'This book is nothing less than a rip-roaring action thriller with politicians and thugs, scientists and spies — and an unnerving sense of the possible.' Samela Harris (Adelaide Advertiser)

'It's a gripping read because of its eerie prescience. But in McCutcheon's professional hands, it will also have you reading on the edge of your seats.' Jan Hallam (Sunday Times)

Secret Son

These two books by the wonderful author Laila Lalami are highly recomended!

Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits

Tahir Shah's bestseller tells of his adventures, trials and tribulations when he purchases and old house in Casablanca.

The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca

Other Moroccan authors.

Tahar Ben Jelloun
This Blinding Absence of Light Leaving Tangier: A Novel The Sand Child

Mohammed Choukri

For Bread Alone
In Tangier

Leila Abouzeid
Year of the Elephant: A Moroccan Woman's Journey Toward Independence

Anthology translated by Paul Bowles
Five Eyes: Stories by Abdeslam Boulaich, Mohamed Choukri, Larbi Layachi, Mohammed Mrabet, Ahmed Yacoubi.

To purchase a book, simply click on the book title.




Jillian said...

What about Tahar Ben Jelloun? Mohammed Choukry? Mohamed Mrabet? Leila Abouzeid?

Laila Lalami is the only Moroccan I see on that list, and while I absolutely agree that her books are incredible, the best perspective on the country comes from Moroccans.

Features Editor said...

Hi Jillian - this is only the beginning of a list which will grow. I ran out of time today and all the people you suggest are on my radar. Is your own book still available? Have you the ISBN? I will post that as well.


TaraO. said...

I would also recommend the spy romance novel Lulu in Marrakesh. a fun read while you also learn about Moroccan culture, traditions,etc..TaraO

Jillian said...

Thanks for adding mine - it's indeed still in print :)

I plan to review Secret Son and Tahar Ben Jelloun's "Leaving Tangier" as soon as I've finished reading them - can't wait.

رايشل said...

Hey, I think the list is great!
But I would like to make a few suggestions:

Pamela Windo-Zohra's Ladder
Leila Abouzeid-The Director(her short stories are fabulous)

I plan on reading Tahar Ben Jelloun soon!

Marwa Hattab said...

Thank you for a great list.
I would love to suggest this great book by a mexican writer who lived in Morocco, specially in Mogador. He published six books on Morocco, translated into 12 languages but only two of them into English. The last one is THE SECRET GARDENS OF MOGADOR by Alberto RUY-SANCHEZ.
I bought it in amazon. (isbn 978-1-893996-99-1). I am reviewing it for The Huston literary magazine "Literal", in Spanish.

The other one is published by City Lights:
(isbn 0-87286-271-2)

Marwa Hattab
(I am one of your Facebook fans)

Amera said...

I'm reading Lulu in Marrakech right now...I don't recommend it - nothing in it strikes me as realistic Morocco - much more like Fox News Morocco...

Twinlance Books said...

Right on Jillian! I do enjoy this list of books though. I want to try the Cobbler's Apprentice, so I will add that to my reading list. And, don't forget "Allah's Garen: A True Story of a Forgotten War in the Sahara Desert of Morocco" by yours truly that was reviewed on the View from Fez. Feel free to link to that on Amazon! Very Best, Thomas

The View from Fez said...

It is great that people are suggesting books ! Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

hi brothers and sisters i wish you fine. i need some books of maroccan literature.can anybody send me sone ?thank you in are my facebook faissal yagoubi