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

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: Empires of Vice by Diana S. Kim

Updated 59 min 52 sec ago

What We Are Reading Today: Empires of Vice by Diana S. Kim

During the late 19th century, opium was integral to European colonial rule in Southeast Asia. 

The taxation of opium was a major source of revenue for British and French colonizers, who also derived moral authority from imposing a tax on a peculiar vice of their non-European subjects. 

Yet between the 1890s and the 1940s, colonial states began to ban opium, upsetting the very foundations of overseas rule — how did this happen? Empires of Vice traces the history of this dramatic reversal, revealing the colonial legacies that set the stage for the region’s drug problems today, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

Diana Kim challenges the conventional wisdom about opium prohibition — that it came about because doctors awoke to the dangers of drug addiction or that it was a response to moral crusaders — uncovering a more complex story deep within the colonial bureaucracy. 

Drawing on a wealth of archival evidence across Southeast Asia and Europe, she shows how prohibition was made possible by the pivotal contributions of seemingly weak bureaucratic officials.