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: Give and Take by Nitsan Chorev

Updated 13 December 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Give and Take by Nitsan Chorev

Give and Take looks at local drug manufacturing in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, from the early 1980s to the present, to understand the impact of foreign aid on industrial development. 

While foreign aid has been attacked by critics as wasteful, counterproductive, or exploitative, Nitsan Chorev makes a clear case for the effectiveness of what she terms “developmental foreign aid.”

Against the backdrop of Africa’s pursuit of economic self-sufficiency, the battle against AIDS and malaria, and bitter negotiations over affordable drugs, Chorev offers an important corrective to popular views on foreign aid and development, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. 

She shows that when foreign aid has provided markets, monitoring, and mentoring, it has supported the emergence and upgrading of local production. 

Without losing sight of domestic political-economic conditions, historical legacies, and foreign aid’s own internal contradictions, Give and Take presents groundbreaking insights into the conditions under which foreign aid can be effective.