Book Review: A powerful collection about a never-before-seen side of Marrakech

A powerful collection about a never-before-seen side of Marrakech. (Shutterstock)
Updated 24 October 2018
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Book Review: A powerful collection about a never-before-seen side of Marrakech

CHICAGO: This year’s noir anthology from Akashic Books takes us to Marrakech, Morocco, the first North African city to share its dark tales translated from Arabic, French and Dutch into English for the award-winning series. Each story focuses on a specific neighborhood, with its mysteries and allures, as “Marrakech Noir” and its 15 contributing authors delve into the city, its religious and cultural hues, its tourist attractions, its story-telling haven at Jemaa el-Fnaa, and its shadowy, less attractive corners.

Edited by Yassin Adnan, this powerful collection of diverse and unique tales dives into a Marrakech mostly unknown by outsiders. The stories paint an in-depth portrait of a city and traverse the spectrum of emotions, from joyful to sadistic. Known as “The Red City” and “The Joyful City” since the time of the Almoravid leader Yusuf bin Tashfin, Adnan says in his introduction that Marrakech does not necessarily associate with noir: “Marrakechis can invent colorful stories to avoid the darkness of reality.”

In this collection, however, the contributors took on the challenge to take readers on a journey through old and invented crimes committed in the ancient city and modern neighborhoods.

The book begins with an innovative tale called “The Mysterious Painting” by Fouad Laroui. It takes place in Bab Doukkala and follows a police chief who has recently moved to Marrakech from Safi. Following the same routine daily, he sits in the restaurant he frequents every day for lunch and notices a painting hanging in front of him. This painting takes him and readers on a journey through Marrakech, its people, and history.

As the book moves forward, the stories take us to Derb Sidi Bouloukat and Marrakech’s love for cinema, into the future when oil is extracted from Mars, to discrimination against immigrants, to a potter whose sculptures take hold of their owners.

The stories lead readers through a never-seen-before Marrakech, brimming with nostalgia and the sense of attachment each of the authors have to the city and its history.

 


What We Are Reading Today: The Fate of Rome

Updated 23 March 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: The Fate of Rome

Author: Kyle Harper

Here is the monumental retelling of one of the most consequential chapters of human history: The fall of the Roman Empire. The Fate of Rome is the first book to examine the catastrophic role that climate change and infectious diseases played in the collapse of Rome’s power — a story of nature’s triumph over human ambition.
Interweaving a grand historical narrative with cutting-edge climate science and genetic discoveries, Kyle Harper traces how the fate of Rome was decided not just by emperors, soldiers, and barbarians but also by volcanic eruptions, solar cycles, climate instability, and devastating viruses and bacteria.
He takes readers from Rome’s pinnacle in the second century, when the empire seemed an invincible superpower, to its unraveling by the 7th century, when Rome was politically fragmented and materially depleted, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. Harper describes how the Romans were resilient in the face of enormous environmental stress, until the besieged empire could no longer withstand the combined challenges of a “little ice age” and recurrent outbreaks of bubonic plague.