Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

"al-Sahara" by Antonio D'Errico (Ananke, 2005)

Mohammed lives in Beni-Mellal in the middle of Morocco. He suddenly runs away from home, hitches to Casablanca. At the beach wondering where he'll spend the night, the sand making him homesick for the Saraha. Someone takes pity on him, gives him a meal ("Assaporo per la prima volta in bocca il piacere di qualcosa che non fosse couscous e tashin", p.41) lets him have a room and finds him a job as a waiter in a night club. There he meets a girl, but on their first date her brother attacks him.

He gets to talk to Johann, a client. He's changed his name. and one night gives Mohammed a talk about how to change one's life. He offers Mohammed a flight to Turin, accommodation, language lessons and training to be a higher standard of waiting. He has a few hours to decide before the flight leaves. He decides to go.

He stays with Yousseff, who has done what he's done. Yousseff teaches him about the job, (like Zen and the Art of laying a table). There's a detailed section on how Mohammed copes with a session - etiquette, psychology, etc. Everything's going ok, but then he realises that Yousseff is taking cocaine, which upsets him. Yousseff is sacked by the maitre (German, maybe a racist). Johann turns up to take him to a dependency clinic. Mohammed carries on, finds a girl who quickly seduces him. He rejects her when she takes cocaine at a party and dances with others. She begs him to reconsider.

At the end Yousseff returns to Morocco and Mohammed spends a page telling us that there's one God but many religions. He's thinking about going home.

148 pages, and a 2 page author's note explaining that he met a Yousseff in Morocco once, who told him the story of his life and let him use it. Though the story is from Mohammed's PoV, there's the odd sentence from Yousseff's PoV - e.g. on p.108 the news that the contessa's order never changes comes from inside Yousseff's head, and on p.126 we're told that he invents stories to entertain friends.

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