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Salvation Army

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  490 ratings  ·  58 reviews
An autobiographical coming-of-age novel by the the "only gay man" in Morocco.

An 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
Paperback, 143 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Semiotext(e) (first published March 1st 2006)
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3.75  · 
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 ·  490 ratings  ·  58 reviews

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Mar 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Salvation Army is autobiographical, to an extent, it’s based on Taïa’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 ...more
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Having Edmund White write the introduction to this autobiographical novel is quite ironic. Taïa 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
George Ilsley
Sep 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa, fiction, gay, re-read
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
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: queer-experience
This short book is a coming of age story of a boy from Morocco. He's gay, and maybe first puts that together when observing and loving his brother. Later he falls for a man from Switzerland, but when he pursues his education in that country, things go sour.
Nov 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
"Salvation Army" by Abdellah Taia is not a complicated on the surface. It tells the story of a young gay Moroccan boy who grows up in large family and later comes to Europe in the pursuit of sexual and intellectual freedom. When his friend does not show up at the airport in Geneva to pick him up, he is forced to seek shelter at the Salvation Army. It is not your average coming of age story. Taia puts together an amazingly sobering story about growing up in a culture in which your freedom to make ...more
Dec 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: gay-fiction
A coming out book in a culture where homosexuality is criminal, this memoir is of interest from the comparative cultural point of view today or even in the '80s, but I don't see that it offers much for those of us who grew up in the '50s and '60s. It all sounds very familiar.

Taïa was about 33 when he published his memories of being a teen. He comes off as being naive, affectionate, smart, a nice-guy I'd like to know. He tells his story without shame. I wonder how looking at his teen years from
Neil Mudde
Jul 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This was my first book by Abdellah Taia, his name evokes in me the Casbah in Tangiers,were many years ago I spent a New Years Eve. The title of this book intrigued me,that is why I picked it up, and soon realized it had nothing to do with Soap Soup and Salvation, it is a story of a poor young Moroccan in love with the mysteries of Europe, the Salvation Army has a hostel in Geneva, the story is about love between family members, a special love for his older brother Abdelkebir and other sexual enc ...more
Aug 02, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2010
My stodgy side reappears! A memoir that ruminates for a long time on the author's giant crush on his older brother, and doesn't really contain much other than that, except his parents' fights and this Swiss guy he fucks for awhile, and then doesn't. There isn't much of substance here, and I am willing to admit that the incest threw me out of the narrative, but frankly, there wasn't much of a narrative to begin with.
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"L’armée du salut" (The Salvation Army) is a brief, bittersweet, highly personal coming of age story written by a one of France’s best writers, the openly gay Abdellah Taïa. It’s a rather simple and straightforward story, told in the voice of a young man - obviously Taïa himself - who remembers his youth in Morocco, where he lived modestly with his large family in a little house. Taïa recalls colorful anecdotes and takes the reader on a journey into the daily life of the sensitive young Moroccan ...more
Ben Moody
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Morgan Miller-Portales
‘L’Armée du Salut’ (Salvation Army) by LGBTQI Moroccan novelist Abdellah Taïa, is a major addition to the canon of Francophone literature stemming from the North African diaspora. Both a rumination on identity and a larger meditation on the place of gay Arab men both at home and in exile, this autobiographical coming-of-age novel is another masterpiece. Beautifully written, it is impossible not to be utterly spellbound by the pathos seeping out of every page. One of my favourite authors.
Mustafa Bilal
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
I liked the first part of the book, Taia's relation with his mother and brother was very interesting and engrossing. The latter part becomes a little flat for me. However, I admire the honesty with which Taia writes. The prose is very simple but is not immature. The most lucid part is about Abdelbekir and Taia's relation. It is quite engaging.

I finished it in 1.8 hrs with an average of 265 w/m.
Lamar Latrell
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, gay, autobiography
Not strictly my genre, but it was nice to read a memoir from a gay Moroccan. Especially one about my age. There’s a universality (at least from my perspective) to the stories he tells of the experiences that forced him to grow up a little more and become the person he is today.
Donald Reid
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Lovely, human book written in a spare unshowy style and which evokes well the emotional and cultural dilemmas of the author. Makes me want to read more.
Matthew Valletta
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was like a beautiful dream. I enjoyed it very much.
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is gorgeous!
K.M. Soehnlein
Mar 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
The narrator of this "autobiographical novel," who shares the author's name and background, is direct, honest, naive, open hearted, sometimes timid and sometimes brave. The book is a series of episodes from his childhood in Morocco and then his early 20s, when he leaves Morocco for Geneva, Switzerland. Each episode has its own beauty and memorable moments, and all of them chart a burgeoning passion for men -- first, his fixation on his older brother, then a lover named Jean, who brings him to Eu ...more
Jun 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book was a bundle of contradictions: an easy to read style and difficult themes, a novelist's sense of symbolism and a memoirist's sense of perspective, events that are almost unrelentingly painful and an outlook that's almost always upbeat.

I don't recomment this book if you have specific issues with incest and/or prostitution. Those came close to overshadowing the book for me, but I pressed through and found it ultimately rewarding.

The one quote that I want to put on a wall, or my arm, or
Dec 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Three simple yet haunting intertwining tales of a boy turned young man who is an outsider no matter who he's with or where he goes, whether he is home with his mother, on travels with his brothers, or in a foreign country abandoned by a former lover. Taïa caught my attention with his emotional gutpunch of an essay in the New York Times about being a gay boy growing up in Morocco and this memoir-cum-novel holds just as much power and casts an even larger spell. His astute perspective and lonely t ...more
Taïa has a beautiful poetic style that refers mainly to the senses. He manages to create a vivid, warm portrayal of Morocco, with insight into a culture and world that is so different from ours. When he switches to Switzerland you can feel the style becoming colder, reflecting Taïa's disappointing experiences there. It is his style and language that make this novel stand out. Unfortunately the story is too episodic and it feels like you only get small glimpes of what his life was, both in Morocc ...more
Bishan Samaddar
Dec 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: homoerotic, gay
A deceptively simple narrative on the surface, Salvation Army seethes with subterranean energy. Beneath the tale of childhood love, sexual awakening, loss of homeland and the discovery of new shores, there is a deeper narrative about race, racism, and the inescapable inequality of love. The emotionality of the novel's language is shocking. Readers of literature in English will be shaken to the core by Abdellah Taïa's storytelling and his entirely original way of expressing emotions—the gruesome ...more
Feb 18, 2016 rated it liked it
A quick read, I enjoyed this book and the insight that Taia describes. I wanted more of three things: 1. Taia's childhood details growing up in the slum of Sale 2. His state of mind as it was formed by the strong relationship with his mother 3. A greater understanding of his dysfunctional relationship with Jean.

Overall, a great book. I felt the disjointed back and forth of specific time periods of Taia's life was complementing vs. detracting. It really show how important pieces of his life impac
Aug 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Again a book that was a bit of a let down. I think, if I had read it in French it may have been better. I think the simple translation was excellent, but I wanted more information, especially being a biography. What happened with his admissions counselor after she hurriedly left for Berne? How long did it take to find housing? Did his family know of his homosexual lifestyle? What was their reaction? Too many questions...guess this will be for a part II.
Feb 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
As a person who generally loves the memoir genre, I was impressed at how skilled Taia shaped thoughts and stories about his life. At times he was verbose giving every last detail and at other times he leaves the reader without all of the information. Taia artfully sculpts part of his life into a cutting edge novel that spans two theatres--Morroco and Switzerland--and the conflicts deep inside Taia. Taia should be lauded for the authenticity provided in his narrative told through raw stories.
Jan 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
this is a beautifully intimate coming of age story that will be poignant for a gay man to read both in his youth and in adulthood. the author's humility of voice captures a depth and honesty to illustrate the male experience of developing and understanding sexual intimacy among men.
this book offers a perspective of tenderness and clarity to deciphering experiences often complicated by secrecy, violence and depression.
I can't wait to read more from this author.
Sep 11, 2012 rated it liked it
A teenage Moroccan boy describes the tight living conditions at home and his envy/love/desire toward his much older brother. The novel skips back and forth between the 13 year old voice and his later 23 year old one. It also alternates between Morocco and time spent later in Europe. As he deals with his incipient homosexual feelings, he feels no shame or fear, but rather fascination and a sense of discovery. Refreshing. I preferred this to Taia's other title, Arab Melancholia.
Oct 02, 2009 rated it liked it
It was time to read an MIT Press book again. This is a quick read -- a semiotext(e) title translated from the French. It brushes up against the coming of age and education of Morocco's first openly gay man. I think this is an unpolished early attempt at writing that is entertaining in its sexual deviation, but does not fully develop or connect some of the beautiful ideas and descriptions.
Aida Ylanan
Feb 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: morocco
Hauntingly beautiful book. Don't let the simple prose deceive you, as it did to me-- with patience, a reader can see how poetic Taia can be in his descriptions of things. This novel is all about identifying barriers, both physical and emotional, and breaking them through subtle acts of rebellion. Not for the morally faint of heart.
Jan 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Paul by: Out Magazine
Though this is a very slim novel (or is it an autobiography?), the impact is powerful. Taia's prose is spare and poetic. His coming of age as a gay man in Morocco is sensitively told and has a great impact. His bravery and determination are to be admired as are his writing skills. Highly recommended. Grade: A
Raquel Castells
Jan 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
It took me one morning to read the book. I could not put it down. You could tell it is a first novel where the writer is in search of his stile and rhythm, but he finds it in the second part of the book. It help me to understand better Morocco and the journey of a young boy from childhood towards adulthood as well as the difficulties for a north African citizen to adjust to Europe.
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Becoming "Gay" 5 8 Sep 26, 2012 05:54AM  

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Abdellah Taïa is a young Moroccan writer born in Salé in 1973. He grew up in a neighborhood called “Hay Salam” located between Salé and Rabat, where his father Mohammed works at the General Library of the capital. His mother M’Barka, an illiterate housewife, gives so much meaning to his days and accompanies his sleep with her nocturnal melodies. This son of a working-class district and second youn ...more
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“Today, looking back, I tell myself that anything is possible.” 1 likes
“His name was Mohamed. And, like so many others, he dreamt about leaving Morocco some day, for France, Spain, Germany, it didn’t matter where, but his wildest dream was about going to the United States. He knew what he had to do, had even come up with a plan, a simple one, simple but effective: seduce a Western woman, offer himself to her, show her what a Moroccan man was capable of, in other words, fuck her like an animal, make her see stars in broad daylight, screw her nonstop, drive her wild, make her worthy of him, deserving of his cock.” 1 likes
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