Having taken the momentous decision to learn to read and write when in his early twenties, Choukri joins a children's class at the local state school in Tangier. Here he leads a life of desperate poverty. In order to survive, he does a bit of everything; when not at school, he hangs out in cafés, drinking and smoking kif (it's cheaper than cigarettes!). On the days that he has a few coins in his pocket, he can afford a primitive doss house; otherwise he sleeps in mosques or on the street.
A rich kaleidoscope of lowlife characters befriends him: the café habitués (some of whom are intellectuals and educated men) help him with his Arabic and widen his horizons; the local prostitutes take him home and provide a modicum of shelter and human warmth.
On two occasions, he ends up in a mental hospital--the second time because he tries to kill a man who attempts to rape him. Another traumatic event is the long-drawn-out death of his mother, at which time Choukri returns to his village.
Throughout his trials and vicissitudes, two things shine through: Choukri's determination to use literacy to rise above the cruel hand fate has dealt him; and his compassion for the normally despised human beings who share this life of 'the lowest of the low'.
This is the story of Mohamed Choukri and shows how throughout his trials and vicissitudes, two things shine through: Choukri's determination to use literacy to rise above the cruel hand fate has dealt him; and his compassion for the normally despised human beings who share this life of 'the lowest of the low.'About the Author:
Mohamed Choukri is one of North Africa's most respected and widely read authors. This poignant autobiographical novel, which spans the 1960s and '70s (together with his previous novel, For Bread Alone), ranks among the best works of contemporary Arabic literature.
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