Ben Jelloun in Review

Allan Massie reviews Tahar Ben Jelloun’s The Last Friend, over at the Scotsman:

Nostalgia permeates the novel, for it is not only the story of a friendship that is brought to breaking-point but a melancholy meditation on loss, on the bitter taste of experience, on the closing of the avenues of possibility that seemed to exist – did perhaps exist – in youth.

Tahar Ben Jelloun is a remarkable novelist, and this novel which is at the same time fresh as a spring morning, and sad as an autumn twilight, offers us a wonderful evocation of daily life, of the conflicting claims of friendship and marriage, of the deadening weight of experience that presses on Ali and Mamed in maturity. The writing is simple and direct. Every sentence is telling. It makes you think and feel at the same time. Read it. There is nothing tricksy about it, nothing pretentious. It is that most satisfying of things: a true fiction.

I’ve actually just finished writing my own review of this engrossing and significant novel. More on this soon. In the meantime, those of you who read French can already check out Ben Jelloun’s latest novel, Partir, which is quickly climbing the bestseller lists in France.

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