In this extraordinary non-fiction novel, based on a true story, Tahar Ben Jelloun traces the experiences of Salim who, in 1971, took part in a failed coup attempt to oust King Hassan II of Morocco. With sixty others Salim was incarcerated in a secret prison complex in the Moroccan desert: he was to remain there for nearly twenty years.
In starkly eloquent, beautiful prose, Ben Jelloun relates the prisoners' experiences as they struggle to survive. The son of a witty, feckless courtier who disowns him, Salim tells stories to keep sane - from the suras of his beloved Koran to the plot of A Streetcar Named Desire. Even in the darkest, most terrible conditions, sympathy, insight, the human quest for meaning and understanding, never desert Salim. The resulting novel is a wrenching yet exquisite celebration of the human spirit and its determination to survive.