Exile and the Kingdom

Linked with our presentation of Laila Lalami – Morocco.

Excerpt: … The Last Friend begins in the schoolyard of a French lycée in Tangier in 1960. Fifteen-year-old Ali has just arrived with his family from Fez. After school one day, a few bullies attack him, calling him “a Jew,” because he is light-skinned and his family name begins with “Ben.” (The particle is, in fact, common among both North African Jews and Fez Muslims.) Ali, who narrates the incident, tells us that a boy named Mohammed–Mamed, for short–rushes to his defense. The two become fast friends, although they have different sensibilities. Mamed, the son of a wealthy couple, embraces the nationalist struggle, reads Fanon, Marx and Lenin, and longs for the establishment of social justice in a newly independent Morocco. Ali is also fiercely opposed to colonialism, but he prefers to spend his time reading poetry or watching movies rather than poring over radical manifestoes. In time, Mamed leaves for France to study medicine, while Ali goes to Quebec to study film. (Read the long article of Laila Lalami on this page of The Nation).

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