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3.34  ·  Rating details ·  789 ratings  ·  163 reviews
The story of an immigrant named Mohammed who has spent forty years in France and is about to retire. Taking stock of his life- his devotion to Islam and to his assimilated children-he decides to return to Morocco, where he spends his life's savings building the biggest house in the village and waits for his children and grandchildren to come be with him. A heartbreaking no ...more
Paperback, Zbirka Bralec, 124 pages
Published 2011 by Modrijan (first published 2009)
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Average rating 3.34  · 
Rating details
 ·  789 ratings  ·  163 reviews

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Jim Fonseca
Jul 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of a devout Muslim Moroccan immigrant living in Paris. He's a worker on an auto assembly line at Renault. He lives in the Arab ghetto projects, where the young Muslims occasionally riot and burn cars, but he has no interest in politics – he loves his job and his life.

Once a year on vacation he returns to visit family in the old village which is like going back 50 years in time. He drags his kids along and they get bored after the first couple of days. But, in his opinion, all is well
Years ago, I read This Blinding Absence of Light, and was absolutely floored. Just jaw-dropping, melancholy prose set in about as rough an environment as you could imagine. Years later, I've tracked down another of Tahar Ben Jelloun's novels, and found something just as melancholy, but rather than set in the explicit bad of a desert prison, it's set between worlds. Between metropolitan France and the Moroccan village, between old and new, tradition and modernity, and the odd interstices -- for e ...more
Nilda Brooklyn
Mar 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am a sucker for a day in bed with a book, but many years of schooling killed any desire for non-academic reading. In the last couple of months I have finally begun to come out of my reading coma and my first real author crush is on Tahar Ben Jelloun. Ben Jelloun is considered Morocco’s greatest living author and poet. I stumbled upon an English translation of his novel A Palace in the Old Village while living in Marrakech and fell in love. His descriptive story telling weaves humor and history ...more
Feb 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When someone talks to me about Tahar Ben Jelloun, it's like preaching to the converted! His latest book is no exception. The writing style is faithful to itself, and the book is both touching - tough even, especially near the end - and also realistic. I easily felt friendship for the almost workman-like Mohamed, who later retires. The reader totally understands his feelings towards the confusing relationship he, as well as his whole generation of immigrants, have towards France, and the contrast ...more
Stephen Durrant
Mar 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This small novel probably will not live on as a significant work of literature, but it is very timely and, like Ben Jelloun's other writings. highly enjoyable. The story concerns Mohammed, who came to France from Morocco in the 1960's to work at an automobile factory. He is a good man, who is not at all sympathetic to radical movements within Islam and who, in his own peculiar way, cares deeply about his family and friends. But he is also completely incapable of adapting to France and, indeed, t ...more
The Book
Oct 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa, morocco
Muhammad drifted peacefully through his life. He never questioned the ways of the village he grew up in, or the customs of his culture, even when he and his family were uprooted to France. He knew who he was and quietly went through life that way, secure in what he knew to be so. He locked himself away from the new reality of life in France, assuming that things would work out as he knew they would. It sounds pretty blissful, especially to me, who questions everything and worries endlessly about ...more
Whenever I gazed at the horizon, at that dry mass of red and grey rock, my dreams were too intimidated to show their faces; I feared they might become stuck in that barren landscape, so hard and hopeless. Everything was exaggerated in that place: cold and heat, light and storms, the stars that swarmed in infinite numbers on some nights, and the clouds that blanketed the sky without shedding the tiniest drop of rain. So the dreams stayed sleeping in a cave I never dared to explore. I was scared o ...more
yasmine skalli
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
tahar ben jelloun is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. his poignant writing and reflection in this novel was beautiful. this and racism explained to my daughter are wonderful reads.
Friederike Knabe
"The rich colours of home... where they make music when my mind is tired but they stay inside me..." Mohammed, the hero of Tahar Ben Jelloun's elegiac and moving story of a simple man from a small village in Morocco, feels completely lost in the fast moving, modern world. Clad in his grey work overalls, all his life in France appears to him as nothing but grey. " I love colors and I keep that to myself. I can't make my children understand it, but I don't even try, don't feel like talking, explai ...more
Jan 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maghreb migration has evidently had a huge impact on the shape of Europe, but since immigration tends to be the topic of choice when seeking comfort in scapegoats nowadays across the continent, it is a delight to read such a lovely tale of an immigrant who feels so human in his struggles to find a place between two worlds.

The protagonist Mohammed has to come to terms with retirement, but it is not exactly easy. Ever since migrating, his life has consisted of routines which are suddenly broken an
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was debating giving this novel a rating of 2. As I read it, I thought this is a reason Katie is not in a book club because she does not want to read or to continue to read books she dislikes.

The tone of the novel was depressing; I should have liked it, right? The novel was quite reflective; I should have like it, right? Not enough happened. The protagonist was admirable, a devout Muslim, a good father and husband, but a bit distanced from the modern world. As a result he was mortally, emotiona
Mar 21, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very sad but good book. Really resonates with being an expat/immigrant and thinking about long term, should you or should you not move back to the homeland, and what will you do once you go back. Ask anyone who left their homeland, and they have explored these thoughts at some point.
This author is special. Reading this book you feel like you're going into the depths of the mind of an old man. You live through his long life, moving to a completely new world, spending your life away fro
May 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-extra
The author is from Morocco and this is the story of a Moroccan Berber man who emigrates to France to work in a car assembly plant. He has never fully assimilated and still sees his impoverished rural village as his real home. His retirement brings about a personal crisis and a lot of thinking back about his life and the different ways of life in France and Morocco. The second generation find it much easier to be French and do not have that same nostalgia for the old ways.
The book reminded me of
Mar 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
For me this is more of 3.5 star books more than a 3 or 4 star novel but based on how I've rated other books I went with 4 stars for this. This is a rather sad story about a Moroccan man and his family working in LaFrance for his entire working life and how he's struggling to deal with his retirement, his French born and raised children who he doesn't understand and his complete faith in Islam as his religion. He's clearly a caring and gentle man but one who is incapable of understanding how his ...more
Apr 24, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A little slow but interesting.
Oct 29, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Didn't enjoy it. Nothing more to say.
Eman AbuKhadra
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely LOVED this book.
Loved its simple style, loved its real-life plot and loved how it tackled an issue many, if not all immigrants constantly think of: our identity, our place in our home countries, and our place in our new homes.
The author wonderfully discussed the many questions that constantly toy with our brains and feed on our hearts: Did we make the right decision? Is it worth it? Is that what we really want? Who are we now? Did we change? Who are our children? Do we belong here,
Aisha (thatothernigeriangirl)

In A Palace in the Old Village, Mohammed, our main protagonist, is a Moroccan man who has lived most of his life working in France and this book is an account of his thoughts on immigration. Although the story doesn’t seem to rise or fall throughout the book, the storytelling was still very poetic —and I imagine even more so in French, it’s original language. In fact, it was largely why I got through the book.

I also enjoyed the individual theme se that Taher Ben Jelloun discussed through Mohamme
Příŋ Cěśś
well, I didn't like it translated, because it didn't convey the good message that this book talks about.All in all this book has a great theme of immigration, and what immigrants safer in another country far from their tradition, values, religion and culture. and during the journey of looking for a better life and a good job, they end up losing their family, children and many things.another country can give you a good job, house and maybe a good life but not for free, it will steal from you, you ...more
Aug 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poco, middle-eastern
A somewhat slow glimpse into the mind of an elderly man who is increasingly confused and sick. The text is narrated from his point to view, so you get a flawed view of his relationship with his wife and children. He believes that he has been good to his wife and kids, and in some minimal ways he has (no violence against either), but in others he has not (he cheated on his wife once, he cannot accept his children as separate people from what he wants, etc.). As he retires and increasingly lose hi ...more
Rachel Lewis
This is an incredibly depressing book. It took me a LONG time to finish it despite it being incredibly short. There's just nothing in it that makes you want to read on because it just gets more and more depressing.
Tumelo Moleleki
I really liked it. It taught me some things about Morocco and about the Berber. The notes at the end most educational about the religion as well as traditional and superstitious beliefs in Morocco.

Mohammed was a hypocrite that didn't know it was...
Susan Zinner
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Moving story of an elderly man who envisions a life in retirement where his children (estranged from him and leading lives in big cities) return to his small town to live in the large house he is building with his retirement savings; things don't go as he expects...
Apr 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good story that deals with Moroccan parents who have immigrated to France to work and raise their children. However, this story could apply to the hopes and dreams of immigrants anywhere, particular as they age, only to find their children having a different value system then theirs.
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Inspired by spending too much time with this book.
Loveliest Evaris
Why is this rated so low? I absolutely loved it.

This book gave me insight on the inner machinations of an old Moroccan Muslim man who, despite all of his attempts to live a decent life, is constantly befuddled and bemused by France and the idea that his children are not as interested in him as he is in them.

What is both frustrating and marvelous about this narrative is Mohammed (the main character) and his naive yet persistent refusal to believe or adapt to anything. The book reiterates countles
Uzair Anwar Qureshi
Anything this book is, its not a light read that can be completed without thought or concern. Its basically a condition, a first-person perspective of the life of a labor worker who has emigrated from Morocco to France. The narrator and protagonist have a sort of mixed up blend in this book and I believe the translator had a part to play in that.

Nevertheless, there are a bunch of ways this novel can be interpreted. What I got out of it simply revolves around what this man sacrificed to secure a
Tony Mercer
Jul 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting book that I read while traveling through Morocco. I particularly enjoy and seek out books about immigrants and their lives in foreign countries. Ben Jelloun was an immigrant himself, moving to Paris, and understands the complexities of Moroccan (or even former French Colonial African) life in modern France. Our narrator moved to France on a whim in search of a life outside the village. And while he is grateful for the opportunities and income he receives, his plan is never to sett ...more
Aug 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A heart-breaking novel about the hardship of immigration, "A Palace in the Old Village" by Tahar ben Jelloun tells the story of Mohammed and his family, who leave Morocco and immigrate to France, in search of a better life.

The novel depicts a lonely existence, an emptiness and lack of belonging that knows no home. Ben Jalloun describes the "strange promises of Lala Franca", lameting that "our fathers didn't prepare us, told us nothing. They'd never have imagined that men would leave their land
Dec 27, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Mohammed leaves his native Morocco as a young man to move to France for work. Now he's reached retirement age and a time of crisis. His children are grown and have moved on - two of them marrying outside the Muslim faith. Mohammed longs for the routine of work and without it, is restless. Ultimately, he decides to return to Morocco to his village where he spends his savings building a huge house in order to be able to gather all his children back to him.
When I read about this as a suggestion o
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الطاهر بن جلون
Tahar Ben Jelloun (Arabic: الطاهر بن جلون‎‎) is a Moroccan writer. The entirety of his work is written in French, although his first language is Arabic. He became known for his 1985 novel L’Enfant de Sable (The Sand Child). Today he lives in Paris and continues to write. He has been short-listed for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

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