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The Happy Marriage

3.28  ·  Rating details ·  1,344 ratings  ·  147 reviews
“Ben Jelloun is arguably Morocco’s greatest living author, whose impressive body of work combines intellect and imagination in magical fusion.” —The Guardian
In The Happy Marriage, the internationally acclaimed Moroccan author Tahar Ben Jelloun tells the story of one couple—first from the husband’s point of view, then from the wife’s—just as legal reforms are about to ch
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published January 12th 2016 by Melville House (first published 2012)
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Average rating 3.28  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,344 ratings  ·  147 reviews

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Dec 16, 2015 marked it as dnf
Shelves: translated, arc
I read half of this book, and while it definitely wasn't bad, it didn't do much for me. The narrative keeps you at a distance from the characters, so I felt no sympathy for or interest in what was happening. And with that lacking, I don't feel compelled to read on. I'm glad I gave it a try, and I'd be interested in reading something else by this author eventually. ...more
Feb 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Tahar Ben Jelloun is a famous Moroccan writer, mulit awards winner, that writes in French. He lives in Paris and is often talked about as possible winner of Nobel Prize in Literature.

The Happy Marriage ,is his super fresh still wrarm novel, also just translated to English.

This new novel starts with a famous, celebrate painter turned invalid after severe stroke. Unable to move he starts his story of the years long marriage, his love life and artistic life.

I deliberately said that this is his s
Oct 16, 2020 marked it as couldn-t-finish
Bailed at 50%. The endless parade of his lovers was the final straw. No doubt his boundless self absorption and inability to conceive of his share of the blame were the point, but I just didn’t care any more.
Renita D'Silva
Jun 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
A brilliantly imagined portrayal of a marriage in all its convoluted glory.
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It reminded me a lot of Marquez and Rushdie. Brilliant story teller. Just brilliant. The style makes you feel in one of the Arabian Nights stories. Its hard to say anything about this book. You need to read it and love every word of it. If it wasn't for the obvious, right in your face preferred thesis, the book would have been perfect. Splendid characters (Lalla Fatma, my favourite), a way with words (one sentence, sometimes even one word tells an entire story), magic realism atmosphere... Simpl ...more
Jun 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a good read, i enjoyed every page of the book, racism is something not really talked about or taken seriously in Morocco, and this book describes perfectly the struggle that sub-sahara Africans or even Moroccans with a dark skin have to deal with here, of course i am not saying all Moroccans are racist but racism does exist in Morocco.
I have made a goal this year to read more literature written in countries outside the English speaking world. Tahar Ben Jelloun was born and raised in Morocco, then began to live and write in Paris after attending The Sorbonne. He is bilingual in Arabic and French but writes in French because to him Arabic “is a sacred language, given by God in the shape of the Koran, it is intimidating—one feels very small in front of this language.” (

I had read his mos
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had for some time wanted to read a work by famed Moroccan/French author Tahar Ben Jelloun. On a whim, I picked up "Le Bonheur conjugal", having heard about it on several book blogging sites.
This novel is about the break up of an 'unequal' marriage, between a intellectual, bourgeois Moroccan painter, and his much younger Berber wife of humble origins. The first three quarters of the novel are an account of the events from the husband's point of view. The final part of the novel is told from the
Tamara Agha-Jaffar
The Happy Marriage by Tahar Ben Jelloun, translated from the French by André Naffis-Sahely is in two parts. Part 1 unfolds from the perspective of a highly successful Moroccan Artist from an upper-class family in Fez. Part 2 unfolds in the first-person point of view of his wife, a young woman from a poor village in Morocco. The narrative chronicles the deterioration of their marriage from two entirely different perspectives.

The novel opens in the year 2000 in Casablanca with the artist having su
Full review at Smoke & Mirrors: I thought I would never get through this one. When I originally read about this one, I had not added it to my TBR list. It just didn't seem like one I would like. Then the other co-hosting bloggers for the Literary Wives book club wanted to read it and the publisher very kindly provided us with free review copies. But, unfortunately, this one just did not gel for me. It was a bit similar to Fates and Furies, but not much. ...more
Mar 12, 2016 rated it it was ok
2.5 and maybe actually a 3. This was a weird one. I couldn't put it down the first 130 pages or so - literally couldn't tear myself from the book.

Then it was like falling off a cliff. The narrator's syntax is SO odd and I got to a point where I couldn't think of anything else - the plot was completely subsumed by the voice. (Anyone else remember that HIMYM episode with the shattering glass effect? Yeah, it was that.) Entire paragraphs would be character lectures that followed the same structure:
Mybookmark Gr
"Le mariage de plaisir" is NOT "The Happy Marriage". Just wanted to share this info, as I was a bit confused reading the reviews here in the first place. "Le mariage de plaisir" is not yet available in English.

"Le mariage de plaisir" is about Amir, a wealthy merchant of Fes, who contracts a "marriage of pleasure" with Nabou, a young Fulani. This is a very well written tale about Marocco, racism, and immigration. I couldn't help but feel shocked when the narrator revealed huge events, in such a
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
I enjoyed this book I think because I have been married for a long time. It is a satire of each stage best summarized in the following quote:

"Marriage is nothing but a declaration of war celebrated with music, good food, perfumes, incense, pretty clothes, promises, songs, and so forth."
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“But romantic love is in fact a fiction invented by novelists.” The same failed marriage is reviewed by the husband and wife, who have incredibly different points of view. I felt a deep sympathy for both characters, yet also believed that both were vile creatures who didn’t deserve to be in a relationship (depending on which point of view I was reading!) very well written with plenty of noteworthy quotes.
Moushine Zahr
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read several of Tahar Ben Jelloun fiction and non fiction novels alike and I find this particular novel to be one of the best of his fiction novels sa far, but again I haven't real all his books.

This novel is about a Moroccan painter, who after suffering an AVC and being paralyzed, analyzes his life and especially his failed marriage and the reasons to its failure. The two main characters are very well developed. The story of a famous painter being successful professionally and having mult
Feb 21, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-in-2017
Two probably awful people rant about how awful the other is. Everything is extreme, none of it is interesting.
Feb 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
I read 1/3 of this book and gave up. I understand the book is 2/3 from the husband's, Foulane, perspective and the last third his wife's, Amina Wakrine, rebuttal. The husband, an unnamed painter, is having multiple affairs. He and his wife have an unhappy marriage. They are from different social classes and under Moroccan cultural and religious values.
The reason I gave up on the novel after slightly over 100 pages is because the plot from the painter's perspective was very repetitive with his mu
Zaynäb Book  Minimalist
This book tells the story of a painter who was confined to a wheelchair after suffering from a stroke allegedly caused by his wife. As his wife reads his version of the event. She gives her own version of the story.

It’s unusual to find a book at once freewheeling, controlled, and startlingly observant. The writing is clear; we were allowed to sympathize with both sides.

Although this is a translated work, it is written in bare, straightforward, almost skeletal prose.

I feel so bad for just discove
Mar 30, 2016 rated it liked it
This novel is mostly set in Morocco, and gives a good picture of the differences between rural and city living there. The first two thirds are written from the husband's point of view, and the last third is the wife's story. I liked how they both seemed to have the same sort of grievances against one another, but that they used different incidents to make their points. I fel t the translation was somewhat intrusive. The dialog, especially, was sometimes awkward in English and I kept trying to fi ...more
Nov 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
I nearly ditched this two thirds if the way through (very unusual for me), I was so sick of the nameless artist and his self-pitying rant. The book was somewhat redeemed by the fact that the wife then got to have her say. (Much more succinctly, as she points out.) What an awful couple, though. The blurb was quite misleading - it said this was about women's rights in marriage. It's not. It's about whether a wife should put up with her husband's infidelity. ...more
Victoria Shepherd
May 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Meticulously crafted, without a word our of place, and an unexpected, unsettling conclusion.
Besma Dziri
Nov 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jakub Marek
First of all, I think someone at Goodreads messed up and linked two different books into one. Most reviews written in English seem to be referring to a different book as The Happy Marriage is probably the translation of "Le Bonheur conjugal", while this profile is supposed to be for "Le mariage du plaisir". The books seem to have similar plots and even to share some characters so it's fairly confusing.

In any case, this book really didn't work for me. The first part is great, it focuses on Nabou,
May 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 29, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just wished Goodreads had more than 5 stars to rate a book. This book is between 3 and 4 stars for me.

I think Jelloun is a very good writer, expressing clearly his thoughts and using very accessible wording. He has a good potential as a writer as he touches on world popular inequality subjects, this time racism in the Moroccan society, but also discrepancies between men and woman behavior, as accepted by the Coran. For Amir, cheating on his wife is accepted by his religion as long as he is doi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Halool Angela
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One weekend easy to read novel but with a story that makes you think twice if anything in our behavior and mentality has changed in the last 200 years. A real social novel that bears you on the wings of time from the late thirties until 2010. A story of three generations that combines Islamic thoughts, African believes, racism and social class discrepancy. It is shown the tragedy of the unstable roots of the younger generation that is raised at the confluence of two or more cultures and do not ...more
Oct 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all
Recommended to Debbie by: Good reads
This was a well written book from the perspective of a privileged entitled moroccan who gets it all taken away. it starts when he has had A STROKE THAT HAS TAKEN AWAY SPEECH and mobility. Bravely he uses the time to think and review and does not lose hope that he will be a painter again. the stroke occured right after an extremely stressful fight with his wife of 20 years. after a while he begins to tell us his perspective of their marriage. There is no denying that he has often been a philander ...more
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
Artist who "loves" his innocent wife until he hates her, story drags horribly with exception of inner stories by his nurse that are wicked and foreboding. He has lots of sex that seems vanilla. His descriptions of art are horrible (unreliable narrator). Shrew wife gets the last third of the book to tell her story....doesn't really make it better. Book cover claims this is about changing divorce laws in Morocco. Others see this as a story about class and gender power dynamics, but the whole thing ...more
Carol Jean
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Oddly like a Moroccan version of Gone Girl, except that the husband gets the first 3/4 of the book and the woman gets her short say at the end. The husband, a painter paralyzed by a stroke, spends his part of the book fuming against his wife and musing about all the woman he has "loved" during his life. I was more than ready to hear his wife's version and maybe to kick him a few times myself! Very well written, very saddening story of two people who should get divorced, but trapped by laws and c ...more
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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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