The Sand Child
|The Sand Child|
|Author(s)||Tahar Ben Jelloun|
|Original title||L'Enfant de sable|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
ISBN 0-15-179287-9 (hardback edition)ISBN 978-0-8018-6441-4 (paperback edition)
|Dewey Decimal||843 19|
|LC Classification||PQ3989.2.J4 E613 1987|
The Sand Child (l'Enfant de sable) is a 1985 novel by Moroccan author Tahar Ben Jelloun. First published in France, the novel's message expresses on multiple levels ideas about the post-colonial condition of Morocco while also emphasising themes relating to the construction of individual identities. It can also be seen as a critique of "traditional" Islamic and Moroccan mores, with specific reference to the position of women. There are strong elements of magical realism in the novel.
The book is a lyrical account of the life of Mohammed Ahmed, the eighth daughter of Hajji Ahmed Suleyman. Frustrated by his failure to bring a son into the world, Ahmed is determined that his youngest daughter will be raised as a boy, with all the rights and privileges that go along with it. The first part of the book describes the father's efforts to thwart suspicion that this is a boy, especially from his jealous brothers, who look to inherit Ahmed's fortune. Using bribery and deceit, the masquerade succeeds. Mohammed Ahmed is circumcised (blood is drawn from his imaginary penis when Ahmed intentionally cuts his finger over the child during the ceremony), his breasts are bound, and he even marries his cousin Fatima, a sickly epileptic girl, who dies young. Only the father, the mother, and the midwife are ever aware of the hoax that is being perpetrated.
The story is told by a wandering storyteller, who reveals his tale, bit by bit, to an enthusiastic, though sometimes skeptical audience. To verify his story, he claims to quote from a journal that Mohammed Ahmed kept, revealing his innermost thoughts about his confused gender identity. Mohammed Ahmed also reveals himself through correspondence with a mysterious friend, who writes him letters challenging his identity.
The book changes direction after Fatima's death and the disappearance of the storyteller, forced away by the modernization of the country. The remainder of the journal has been lost, but some of the crowd that once listened to the storyteller continues to meet and share how they see the story ending. Each of them describes Mohammed Ahmed's transition back to womanhood, where she assumes the identity of Zahra. Their stories have different endings, some happy, others tragic, until a blind troubador, a fictionalised version of Jorge Luis Borges, continues the tale leading up to Mohammed Ahmed/Zahra's death.
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