Loved it Because this was a sad, tragic, beautifully written tale about loneliness, despair, hope and home. In other words, it encompasses the entire range of the human condition that you expect a great novel to cover. Ever since living in Morocco as a fifth grader, the country has had an allure for me. In grad school, my thesis compared state responses to Berber populations in Morocco and Algeria--I know...thrilling stuff.
Originally published as Partir in 2006--the english translation came out in 2009. The strength of this novel is that it doesn't hold back in its indictment of the Moroccan government's societal failures but also doesn't hold living in Europe as a golden solution to the problems of most Moroccans. Much of the narrative focuses on a young man named Azel who wants to flee to Spain so fervently that he will eventually do... almost anything.
Another interesting aspect of Leaving Tangier is its examination of the nebulous moral compass of its characters. Azel in particular is disgusted with the corruption and crime inherent in his nation's society and refuses to take part of it. But he is eventually willing to forgo his own sexuality and desires in order to flee Morocco--for Azel this is a choice that starts a slow disintegration of the very fabric of his being. This stands in stark contrast to the voyage of his sister who works hard to maintain her identity and values...to a certain extent...of course...because in this story we see that ultimately no one can live without compromise.
Leaving Tangier stands the test of time as I read it ten years after its publication. It's a timely tale about the harsh reality of immigration and emigration and the depths that desperation drive one to. And it's Jelloun's eye for tender observation and magical realism that cements the novel as a modern classic. Indeed the novel's closing lines are a siren call for all immigrants:
He’s the immigrant without a name! This man is who I was, who your father was, who your son will be, and also, very long ago, the man who was the Prophet Mohammed, for we are all called upon to leave our homes, we all hear the siren call of the open sea, the appeal of the deep, the voices from afar that live within us, and we all feel the need to leave our native land, because our country is often not rich enough, or loving enough, or generous enough to keep us at home. So let us leave, let’s sail the seas as long as even the tiniest light still flickers in the soul of a single human being anywhere at all, be it a good soul or some lost soul possessed by evil: we will follow this ultimate flame, however wavering, however faint, for from it will perhaps spring the beauty of this world, the beauty that will bring the world’s pain and sorrow to an end.’