3 essential books from: Maghreb

This article is also available in: Italiano

Given the rapidly worsening health situation in the Bel Paese, every week we will offer you 3 “essential” books per area, let’s start today from the Maghreb

Small but necessary premise

This is not a ranking but a suggestion to those who should approach these countries and areas of the world for the first time and is also linked to the personal taste of the author. Putting only 3 works (thus risking to leave out entire countries) was a very specific choice due to something that is often forgotten: books are not free. Our intent is to provide beginners and experts with 3 truly “essential” titles, which can thus allow them to enjoy a good text and / or discover something new, allowing them to make only “good” shopping.


Do you have different “essentials”? We are very curious to know them, we will shortly start 30 minutes / 1 hour direct from these lists; stay connected to receive news. We leave you to the list, good reads.

“The Sand Child” by Tahar Ben Jelloun (Morocco)

In an ageless country, which is also today’s Morocco, Mohamed Ahmed was born after seven sisters. She was born female, but at the behest of her father, who does not want to disperse the accumulated assets, she will grow up male in spite of her body, and will be recognized by all as the new head of the family. The Sand Child is the story of an invented identity, of a forced metamorphosis, of the disturbances, obsessions, violence and paradoxes that derive from it.

Ben Jelloun

Tahar Ben Jelloun accomplishes his masterpiece by transporting us to a novel that makes the same prose very similar to poetry. In “Creatura di sabbia” we will face one of the heaviest dramas within the kingdom, living it however halfway between dream and reality, almost more enchanted by the narrator than by the story itself. A book that will take you back to sandy squares, in which strange wayfarers tell stories. To date, the best book ever read on Morocco.

“Scheherezade Goes West” by Fatema Mernissi (Morocco)

Wherever they live, men, whether Eastern or Western, fantasize about the harem. If you pause to contemplate the many works painted by the artists on this theme, you will find yourself faced with an enigma: while the Westerners have portrayed harem beauties as harmless and static creatures, the Orientals have shown them as female fighters. What is hidden behind the different representations of these ephemeral beauties, creatures of the male dream? What do they tell us about the mysterious connections that link sex and fear? Fatima Mernissi has proposed to solve the problem, even if her curiosity, rather than the answers, has given her new intriguing questions.


Few books have been able to upset our ideas as much as “Scheherazade Goes West”, a book that every woman should read at least once in her life. Fatema Mernissi investigates through art and customs to resolve the enormous misunderstandings that over time have been attached to the oriental woman and, specifically, to the Muslim one. An intelligent, witty and lively narration, able to split reality and imagination to show the true face of women in the “Islamic world”. Curiosity: 2 days before the first lockdown, we were organizing an entire event based on this book, just to make you understand the level and depth of the work.

“Nedjma” by Yassine Kateb (Algeria)

Four friends, Rachid, Lakhdar, Murad and Mustafà are obsessed with the love of a woman, Nedjma, Kamel’s bride. A mystery surrounds the birth of her: entrusted as a child to an adoptive mother, she is the daughter of a French woman later kidnapped by four lovers, including Rachid’s father and a prestigious seducer, Si Mokhtar. Nedjma is conceived during a fateful night in which these last two characters had led the Frenchwoman into a cave where, the following morning, the body of Rachid’s father will be found.


Among the most beautiful Algerian novels of all time, Yacine Kateb, using the metaphor of the “femme fatale”, tells the story of her country and of the many conquerors who tried to steal its heart, but never succeeded. A very profound text and especially suitable for those who already have a basis in Algerian history. Having this aspect in mind, in fact, it will be possible to better understand the details and allusions launched by the great writer, a fundamental element that greatly elevates the overall level. Compared to other books it is less easy to read, but if you have time and patience, it is a book that can enrich both in prose and in meaning.

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