The Desert

The Desert : Or, The Life and Adventures of Jubair Wali al-Mammi

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Hailed as a masterpiece when it was first published in France in 1977, The Desert tells the story of al-Mammi, a young exiled prince of a now-destroyed Jewish kingdom in southern Morocco in the late fourteenth century. Fighting battles in the service of kings, facing imprisonment, and narrowly escaping death, the prince travels the Islamic world absorbing lessons, often painfully, on how to govern himself, as well as a country. At the same time, al-Mammi engages on a spiritual journey to obtain inner wisdom rather than material riches.

Memmi chronicles the prince's fortunes as they rise and fall, drawing upon the traditions of Maghrebian storytelling and Arabian tales to offer a highly imaginative and allegorical novel that provocatively blends history with fiction.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 200 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 11.18mm | 276.69g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 10 black and white illustrations
  • 0815610556
  • 9780815610557

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Review quote

An important work of Maghrebi francophone literature. . . .Roumani has managed to veritably channel the voice, timbre, style, and sometimes quirky qualities of the original.--Lia Nicole Brozgal, associate professor of Francophone studies, University of California, Los Angeles For readers who treasure a traditional folkloric Judeo-Arabic 'Arabian Nights' form of storytelling, this book is a delight.--Jewish Herald-Voice An important and compelling work that manages to be both lyrical and a serious work of historical scholarship.--Lucette Lagnado "author of Man in the White Sharkskin Suit, The Arrogant Years " Roumani's English rendering is quite excellent...she has managed to veritably channel the expressions, timbre, style, and quirky qualities of the original.--Celaan Each episode of his story provides a lesson in wisdom, and the novel as a whole constitutes an engaging and thought-provoking mixture of storytelling, reflection, and introspection.--Gerald Prince, professor of Romance languages, University of Pennsylvania This novel brilliantly melds history with imagination, showing us a Mediterranean world which to Western eyes is upside-down, where civilization and sophistication are in the south and barbarism is in the north, and where before the colonial era the indigenous Jews of North Africa were perfectly at home among the other ethnic groups. Memmi's sensitive and ironic portrayal cuts to the heart of many modern and ancient dilemmas of war, statesmanship and personal ethics.--A.B. Yehoshua, award-winning author of Mr. Mani
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About Albert Memmi

Albert Memmi is the author of numerous philosophical/sociological essays and is particularly known for his groundbreaking study of the predicament of the colonized in The Colonizer and the Colonized and for his novels, Pillar of Salt (1953), Strangers (1955), and The Scorpion (1969), all set in Tunisia. The Desert, first published in French in 1977, is his fourth novel. In 2004, the Academie Francaise awarded him the Grand Prix de la Francophonie for his work as a whole.

Judith Roumani is the translator of Jews in an Arab Land: Libya, 1835-1970 by Renzo De Felice (1985) and author of Albert Memmi (1987), as well as other studies of Memmi and numerous publications in comparative literature and Sephardic studies.
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