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This Blinding Absence of Light

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Wikipedia article

'This Blinding Absence of Light' is a 2001 novel by the Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun, translated from French by Linda Coverdale. Its narrative is based on the testimony of a former inmate at Tazmamart, a Moroccan secret prison for political prisoners, with extremely harsh conditions.


The plot is based around the events following the second failed coup d'etat against the late Hassan II of Morocco in August 1972. The protagonist is a prisoner in Tazmamart, who, despite being a fictional character, is based on accounts of the prisoners who survived their incarceration there.

The plot focuses on how prisoners who were kept in the extremely harsh conditions of Tazmamart survived, through religious devotion, imagination and communication. The prisoners spent their sentences in cells that are described as being only five foot in height and ten foot long. The prisoners in the novel are not actively tortured, but are fed poorly and live without light.


Maureen Freely reviewed the book for 'The Guardian', and wrote that "it defies any expectations you might have built up from [knowing about Tazmamart]. It refuses the well-meaning but tired and ultimately dehumanising conventions of human rights horror journalism; it is not a political tract.... Although it is technically a novel, it is a novel stripped, like its subject, of all life's comforts." Freely wrote about the main character that "there is something Beckettian about his limited environment and studied hopelessness", and compared his literary voice to "the language of Islamic mysticism". Freely ended the review: "It is, despite its dark materials, a joy to read."

The novel received the International Dublin Literary Award in 2004.

See also

* 2000 in literature

* Moroccan literature


Category:2001 novels

Category:ditions du Seuil books

Category:French-language novels

Category:Human rights abuses in Morocco

Category:Moroccan novels

Category:Novels set in Morocco

Category:Novels set in the 1970s

Category:Works by Tahar Ben Jelloun

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