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READ KINDLE ß Salvation Army ⛑ An autobiographical coming of age novel by the the only gay man in MoroccoAn autobiographical novel by turn naive and cunning, funny and moving, this most recent work by Moroccan expatriate Abdellah Taia is a major addition to the new French literature emerging from the North African Arabic diaspora Salvation Army is a coming of age novel that tells the story of Taia s life with complete disclosure from a childhood bound by family order and latent homo sexual tensions in the poor city of Sal , through an adolescence in Tangier charged by the young writer s attraction to his eldest brother, to a disappointing arrival in the Western world to study in Geneva in adulthood In so doing, Salvation Army manages to burn through the author s first person singularity to embody the complex m lange of fear and desire projected by Arabs on Western culture Recently hailed by his native country s press as the first Moroccan to have the courage to publicly assert his difference, Taia, through his calmly transgressive work, has outed himself as the only gay man in a country whose theocratic law still declares homosexuality a crime The persistence of prejudices on all sides of the Mediterranean and Atlantic makes the translation of Taia s work both a literary and political event Abdellah Taia is described as the only out Moroccan writer That may or may not be true, but what is true is that Taia s voice, talent, and subject matter, are in stark contrast to deeply conservative Morocco Salvation Army is an autobiographical novel, which covers the beginnings of Taia s exploration of his own identity, sexually and culturally, and his first days in Europe, where he currently lives The book says a lot in few words The prose is minimal, but elegant Strangely, though, it Abdellah Taia is described as the only out Moroccan writer That may or may not be true, but what is true is that Taia s voice, talent, and subject matter, are in stark contrast to deeply conservative Morocco Salvation Army is an autobiographical novel, which covers the beginnings of Taia s exploration of his own identity, sexually and culturally, and his first days in Europe, where he currently lives The book says a lot in few words The prose is minimal, but elegant Strangely, though, it doesn t have a message, and no lesson is learned it is just one part of one man s story It s meaning is unclear, because it isn t finished, and whatever meaning it has to the author, may be lost or unknown to us and that s how individual lives usually are I enjoyed this book thoroughly, and hope to readof Taia s work Having Edmund White write the introduction to this autobiographical novel is quite ironic Ta a became the first openly gay Arab writer in 2006, expanding his repertoire to filmmaking since then I think he remains the only openly gay Arab writer, which says a lot about homosexuality and Islam.It also means that the introduction by White can be read as a kind of cultural appropriation This is a great and important book because White says it is White, by default, is the kind of man of letters t Having Edmund White write the introduction to this autobiographical novel is quite ironic Ta a became the first openly gay Arab writer in 2006, expanding his repertoire to filmmaking since then I think he remains the only openly gay Arab writer, which says a lot about homosexuality and Islam.It also means that the introduction by White can be read as a kind of cultural appropriation This is a great and important book because White says it is White, by default, is the kind of man of letters that Ta a, according to Western culture, must aspire to becoming Especially if he is gay Fortunately, despite White s typically florid introduction trust him to hone in on the detail of Ta a sniffing cum stains on his brother s underpants this book is able to stand on its own The translation is a bit roughshod, with a lot of grammatical and editing errors, but it is this essential rawness of the text that adds so much to its power.White does manage to highlight the indelible sadness imbued in these pages, entitling his introduction Love and Loneliness The one line that stood out for me is his comment that this is, almost, parenthetically, a book about the love of men for men Despite some potently erotic and incredibly evocative scenes a group masturbation session in a public toilet in Geneva, a threesome with two strangers on a train larger questions such as Ta a coming out to his family, or perhaps his brother s ultimate reaction to his unrequited love are barely hinted at.Instead these sorts of questions are subsumed in larger questions of identity and diaspora, as in Ta a s complex and tempestuous relationship with Jean from Switzerland, a relationship that can never transcend its transactional nature being so much younger, Ta a is automatically seen as using the only currency available to him to buy his way out of a poor, working class destiny in a rundown Rabat neighbourhood his body.Of course, the larger transactional relationship that dominates the book is the fraught love hate affair between postmodern Europe and postcolonial Africa, especially the West s rather jaundiced view of Islam and Arab culture in general, which is seen as being inherently regressive and oppressive.Ta a s honesty here is quite searing The section where he arrives in Geneva, only to be abandoned and left to his own devices in a foreign country, culture and city by the foreigner who initially seduced him or was it the other way around would have embittered most people, I think.But here Ta a finds an inner strength, and an abiding faith in the goodness of people, that is truly inspiring So in one sense it is perhaps fitting that Edmund White himself points us to this book, which remains a beacon of how books can transform both lives and perceptions Salvation Army is autobiographical, to an extent, it s based on Ta a s own experiences growing up in an arab household, with parents who fought and loved, an older brother he and the whole family adored, multiple sisters, and being a young gay boy And it s the story of a young arab man entering academia, learning French, coming to Geneva a meeting with the Western world that, from afar could seem to offer salvation, but up close is so many other things It s at first the young boy surrounded Salvation Army is autobiographical, to an extent, it s based on Ta a s own experiences growing up in an arab household, with parents who fought and loved, an older brother he and the whole family adored, multiple sisters, and being a young gay boy And it s the story of a young arab man entering academia, learning French, coming to Geneva a meeting with the Western world that, from afar could seem to offer salvation, but up close is so many other things It s at first the young boy surrounded by family and then, as Ta a himself described it when he visited my university, the hero alone in Geneva It s a mirror, the two parts reflecting each other Everything that we experience in the second half, when Ta a is older, is present in the first half, in his childhood It s a moment from childhood and a moment from adulthood The violence, the love, the heartbreak, the betrayal, the hope, everything he ll experience later is present in those moments from his childhood And it s nothing that you might expect Ta a captures perfectly the duality, the complexity of any family and any person, arab or not, gay or not We re never just one thing, we re always several people crammed behind one face, and the person we portray outside the house is the different from the one you meet inside Perhaps being gay, and knowing it from an early age, made himsusceptible to these observations that there s always something of yourself you hide from others Ta a is in no away ashamed, he writes with honesty and without regret He s helped bring apositive awareness of homosexuality to his native country, Marocco, and it d be easy to look at this as a gay coming of age story, which in a way it is, but it sunique than that,complex and nuanced It s not the story of a life, it s the story of two moments, and everything unsaid, but lived between those two moments And there s something relentless and brutal in his writing, perhaps it s in the honesty, or the poetry, or the way he seems so determined to tell the story he s telling When he visited my university he gave a very informal talk to my class about his writing, his early life, why he writes in French, his filmmaking and various other things He was incredibly eloquent and likeable, he seemed extremely reflected and like he was honestly trying to get at something deeper with his writing He stated himself that he doesn t write to solve problems, that whatever conflict or inner battle he s facing in real life doesn t go away as he writes a book, it s the same afterwards Writing is rather a way to fight the language Marocco has a lot of French speakers, and they always spoke with an arrogant, hostile air, and Ta a wanted to use that, to take it and take revenge on the language, to fight it I think that s what you can sense when reading this book and possibly his other books There s a ferocity to it, and a vulnerability as well, a desire to fight your way to freedom through this language, while being very aware you can t truly escape it It becomesthan just a simple story, it serves a larger purpose In any case, Abdellah Ta a is an interesting, talented, unconventional writer, and I m very excited to readof him He seemed honest and extremely reflected, being incredibly aware of his own position and what he was struggling to do he joked that even being in bed with a Frenchman was colonialism Simply a really, really compelling person and author Please check out his work, I promise it ll be worth it A perplexing achievement The language used creates a distance between the text and the reader The story is fairly common, yet the result in somehow mysterious The language is very straightforward, yet Taia comes off as profound One wonders how much of this is the translation, and how much is due to Taia s mother tongue So much of our thinking is shaped by language instead of thinking doing the shaping and yet this influence is all but invisible to most people.I hope to have a chance to re A perplexing achievement The language used creates a distance between the text and the reader The story is fairly common, yet the result in somehow mysterious The language is very straightforward, yet Taia comes off as profound One wonders how much of this is the translation, and how much is due to Taia s mother tongue So much of our thinking is shaped by language instead of thinking doing the shaping and yet this influence is all but invisible to most people.I hope to have a chance to read this short autobiographical novel again.UPDATE Read this again in November 2016 Saw the movie and then searched out the book, only to realize I had already read it the movie is only loosely based on the book So perhaps everything seemsstraightforward now because I ve read it twice and seen a screen adaptation