Moroccan Literature and A Blogging Break

Picture taken from

Picture of the Kashbah Aït Benhaddou taken from

This is just a quick post to let you know I’m taking a blogging break. I’m not sure for how long but I will certainly be back in time for the readalong at the end of the month.


Some of you know that one of the reasons for the break is that I’m travelling to Morocco. To Marrakech to be precise. The first time I’ve been to Morocco was in part because of so many European and American writers like Paul Bowles, Elias Canetti, Esther Freud, who loved Morocco and especially Marrakech. The way they described the city made me think I would love it. At first I was disappointed as it was so different from what I had imagined but then I went back and saw the “real” Marrakech and fell in love. I wonder how it will be this time. This trip will be special as I’m travelling with someone who has been there before, someone who has never been there and someone who was born there. It will be interesting to see the city through so many different eyes. From Marrakech we will travel to Essaouira which is on the coast and stay there for a couple of days.

I’m looking forward to this trip as the temperature here is still around 6°C/42,8°F, while in Morocco it should be around 27°C/80,6°F.


Another reason why I wen to Marrakech for the first time was Elizabeth Fernea. While studying at the university I took a course on travel memoirs written by cultural anthropologists. One of the titles that made a huge impression was A Street in Marrakech. I’d love to read it again. It’s a fascinating account and a well-written book that captures the magic of living in another culture and the sorrow to leave it again.

The other day I thought it was appalling that I haven’t read any Moroccan writers other than Tahar Ben Jelloun. There are so many, however not all of them have been translated. To put myself in the mood for the trip I compiled a small list.


Tahar Ben Jelloun – Leaving Tangier

Ben Jelloun is probably the most famous Moroccan writer. His books are short and lyrical. He has written a lot. Many of his books have been translated.

Laila Lalami

Laila Lalami Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits

Lalami is  new to me. Her books received much praise. She lives in the US and writes in English but was born in Morocco.


Mohamed Choukri – For Bread Alone

Mohamed Choukri’s autobiographical novel is a classic. It has been translated by Paul Bowles. It’s an account of poverty and hardship, written in powerful prose.


Fatima Mernissi – Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood

I bought this years ago but have still not read it. Mernissi writes in English. I’ve read other memoirs by women who grew up in a harem. They are worth reading as we discover a world we would otherwise never see.


Driss Chraibi’s novel Mother Comes of Age is another classic which I’ve bought some time ago. It is said to be one of the most important Moroccan books.

I hope this post will tempt the one or the other to pick up a Moroccan writer in the future.

I know that some of you are curious to see what books people will read when travelling or on holidays. While I have a kindle I will not go anywhere without real books. These are the candidates I’m taking with me:


I’ve already started Asmara et les causes perdues. Jean-Christophe Rufin has won the Prix Goncourt for his novel Rouge Brésil or Brazil Red. Unfortunately Asmara hasn’t been translated.

burning bright - ron rash

Ron Rash has been on my radar for a while. Before reading his novel The Cove I wanted to explore his shorter fiction. Burning Brigth has received some prestigious prizes.


I just received Brian Kimberling’s first novel Snapper from Random House and since it sounds so good, I’m going to read this soon.

You certainly wonder why I’m not taking any of the Moroccan books. I’m weird that way, I keep those for when I’m back.

Take care everyone. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks.

42 thoughts on “Moroccan Literature and A Blogging Break

  1. Eager to hear about your trip. And thanks for the list of Moroccan authors. I have read a mystery or or two set in Morocco but not any lit novels. And I just love that you got Snapped. As a bird watcher, am I envious!

    • Thanks, Harvee. I think we have all read books set in Morocco but not all that many by Moroccan writers. But I found some very good ones which have been translated.
      I think Snappwr could be very good. I’m loooking forward to reading it.

  2. Have a nice trip to Marrakech, I have excellent memories from the city and the Majorelle garden.

    I agree with you, Tahar Ben Jelloun is a wonderful writer.

  3. Have a great trip, Caroline. Would you think of writing us a few posts based on what you encounter during your trip and how it compares with some of the events in the Marrakech books? I’d really like to read your first-hand impressions, as I have never travelled over there.

  4. Have a wonderful trip, Caroline! I went to Marrakech a few years ago, and also did a road trip to Essaouira. Loved both places, and I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time. Essaouira made a nice break from the intensity of Marrakech! Look forward to hearing about the trip, and please take lots of photos to post when you get back 🙂

    • Thanks, Andrew. That’s what I thought when I was last there. Essaouira is very relaxing compared to Marrakech but I like cities like that.
      I hope to take some pictures.

  5. How exciting! Just yesterday I was talking about visiting Morocco. It’s one of the places on my bucket list. It sounds like you’ll be going with experienced travelers, but do you think it is now safe for a woman to travel there alone?
    Have a wonderful trip. I can’t wait to hear about your adventure when you return.

    • Thanks, Jackie. It’s a lovely place to visit, the whole country is beautiful. The last time we travelled allover. To the desert as well.
      I’m not sure it’s safe for a woman alone. It’s certainly no fun. I couldn’t walk one meter without being harassed. It’s very difficult.

  6. Have a wonderful trip! I have never been to Morocco, but you make it sound very appealing. I look forward to hearing more about yoour trip when you return, and about your reading of course! I find it very interesting that you save the books about Morocco for after your return. I have only ever heard of people preparing for a trip by reading novels set there. But I think I might actually do what you do more often..

    • Thanks, Iris. I think you’d like it as well. It’s very colourful and lively.
      I suppose you can do it both ways, read before you go or afterwards. I prefer to read about a place when I’ve seen it. It’s like being there a little while longer. Reading before you go can influence expectations.

    • Thanks, Tom. Yes, the food. We booked at one of the best restaurants. You actually have to book weks in advance at the moment. It should be very good.
      I started the Lalami and it felt a bit like a light weight. From what I gathered the aim was somewhat educational.
      I’ll have a look at your post. Thanks.

  7. Have a wonderful time in Morocco, Caroline! Looking forward to seeing the pictures! The list of Moroccan books you have written about is wonderful! I have heard of only Tahar Ben Jelloun. I haven’t read any of them. Laila Lalami’s name is very musical. Lot of new authors to explore for me 🙂 The books you are carrying with you are also quite interesting. It was very interesting to know about your travel companions – it is wonderful to see the world through different eyes at the same time. Have fun!

  8. Hope you’ll enjoy your trip Caroline 🙂
    looking forward to read any interesting event that happens there.

    27C is still cosidered as cool here. Lately, it ha been more than 30 here. I am surprised that place is colder

  9. Wow, have a fabulous time Caroline – I dream of going to Essaouira. And happy reading too. The Choukri book is riveting and powerful. I’ve also read one of Rufin’s books (Le Parfum d’Adam); I did not love it – I found it a somewhat awkwardly written hybrid of fiction and polemics about environmentalism and ecological movements – but nor do I regret reading it. I look forward to reading about your trip!

  10. thank you, what a great post. I am in love with morocco in the same way you were – through books. I am still to visit. I very much look forward to hearing about your trip and checking out this wonderful list of books. thanks for sharing.

  11. I almost made it to Morocco years ago, but we decided to go north instead. Really wish we’d gone now. The books sound very intriguing–I’ve never read a Moroccan author, sadly. Will have to change that soon.

    Enjoy your trip! I think you’ll have a wonderful time with so many points of view. Really looking forward to hearing about it, Caroline.

  12. Hope you’re having a really terrific time! I knew you were going but wasn’t sure when–I am envious of the warmth and sunshine–hope you’ll soak some of it up for me. I’m looking forward to hearing all about it when you come back (and hope you’ll have a few photos to share as well). And thanks for the book list–I have the Mernissi as well to read.

  13. I hope you have a great trip, so many literary eyes to see the country through as well as the perspectives of the group!

  14. I am married to one who was born there for more than a decade. So Morocco is my second home and I have been reading quite a number of books set in that country. I have read For Bread Alone but didn’t like it. Leaving Tangier is on my shelf but I have read 2 other Tahir Ben Jelloun books “The Blinding absence of light” was moving, “The Friend” was ok. Don’t forget Edith Warthon’s In Morocco, and also Tahir Shah’s The Caliph House and In the Arabian nights, both captured the essence of Morocco so well and will have you laugh out loud.

    Have a great trip Caroline. Enjoy yourself.

  15. Hi everyone, thanks for the nice wishes, reading suggestions…
    I’m back, as you can see.
    @JoV – Wow, I didn’t know that. How interesting. I’m sure you know Morocco very well. I’ve ordered Tahis Shah. I’m very curious to read him.

  16. The two books by Tahir Shah that I wanted to really recommend you have been already mentioned by somebody else 🙂 There is also a terrific book “The Last Storytellers”, a collection of stories picked up by Richard Hamilton from the last (oral) storytellers in Marrakech. Unfortunately a vanishing craft as it seems, so he was just in time not to lose these wonderful stories. I like also “Streetwise” by Choukri (the follow-up of “For Bread Alone), and his “In Tangier”, his recollection of his meetings with Tennessee Williams, Jean Genet, and Paul Bowles. Also Mohammed Mrabet’s “Look and Move On” is worth reading (also edited by Paul Bowles).

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