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Leaving Tangier

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  1,216 ratings  ·  223 reviews
Young Moroccans gather regularly in a seafront cafe to gaze at the lights on the Spanish coast glimmering in the distance. A young man called Azel is intent upon leaving one way or another. At the brink of despair he meets Miguel, a wealthy Spanish gallery-owner, who promises to take him to Barcelona if Azel will become his lover.
Paperback, 372 pages
Published February 1st 2009 by Arcadia Books (first published 2006)
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3.36  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,216 ratings  ·  223 reviews

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Jul 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is one of those short (1-2 sitting) reads whose relative brevity is an asset. The story and the ideas seem crystalline rather than bloated. Azel is a young Moroccan man who wants to emigrate to Europe--particularly when he runs afoul of a local gangster and the law. Azel is generally heterosexual, but he is not above letting himself be seduced by a man if it lets him achieve his goal of leaving. Enter Miguel, a sophisticated and morally conflicted Spaniard who falls for Azel and takes him t ...more
Jun 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
Excellent character studies of various people trying to find a place to call "home" in Spain and Morocco. Had no idea of the desire of Moroccans to emigrate to Spain. Much like Cuban, Haitian, and Mexican immigrants trying to get to the US. Very sad stories of unhappy lives due to lack of employment, drug use, prostitution, and racism. A deep and serious portrait of a part of the world and culture that I knew nothing about.
Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)
See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits

I wasn't initially sure I would enjoy reading Leaving Tangier because it took me quite a while to get into this novel. I'm not sure how close the translation is to the original French text, but at times sentences seemed clumsy. I also wasn't convinced by some of the dialogue, especially when different characters launch into speeches in remarkably similar voices! However, those points aside, Leaving Tangier gave me insights into the many reaso
Nick Duretta
Mar 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
This novel of two young Morroccans--Azel and his sister Kenza--and their quest to leave their country and prosper abroad is, I feel, primarily about identity and home. Both, like many of their countrymen, felt trapped and stalled in their own country, which (at the time) was awash in corruption and dysfunction. Tempted by the specter of promise in a new land, they compromise their own principles to emigrate to Spain. Even though he is heterosexual, Azel becomes the lover of Miguel, a rich gay ar ...more
Azel is a 24 year old Moroccan who, like many of his friends and relations, dreams of getting to Spain for a better life. The crossing over the sea with people smugglers is getting harder and more dangerous.
He meets a rich older Spanish guy and becomes his lover in order to get his visa. They move to Barcelona. His lover also helps Azel's sister Kenza to migrate.
Azel can't cope in his new life. Kenza works for the Red Cross falls in love with a mysterious Turk.
Each chapter follows these two cha
May 26, 2013 rated it did not like it
A stilted read. Something lost in translation or was the original similarly choppy? The first half roughly had more flow but the remainder was a confused mess. While the English was technically correct, the depressing and pessimistic mood and vague objective left me unsatisfied. The pages-long paragraphs didn't help any. It would have helped to stay on the main character Azel but part way in, suddenly, the perspectives of secondary and tertiary characters are included. His other book won a Frenc ...more
Iqbal Al-Zirqi
Did not like it, and was dissappointed with Taher ben jallon. I felt while reading it s not the same author who overwhelmed me with his book: The bright darkness. This one made me feel that the life and suffering of Arabs who choose to leave countries to Europe are just flat personalities who have no morals at all; It was too much of all sick mad things that u feel that the author saw only distorted sick persons who just wanted to leave to europe for any price. Kind of unbelievable in my opinion ...more
3.5 stars. I really liked the first half of the book, but I didn't like the second as much. I also believe that some of the minor characters had to be explored a little further, because the chapters regarding them are few, short, and sparse; and that makes forgetting those characters far too easy. Still, the book is overall a good and meaningful read, and the writing is beautiful, at least in the original French version.
Dec 11, 2010 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Marieke by: Michelle's rating
one GR reviewer compared it to Invisible Man and Life and Times of Michael K. wow. i must read this.
Jan 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Unlike anything I've read. Beautifully written; I read it at once. If you want to read something non-standard and very different then you should read this. Masterpiece.
Jan 11, 2010 rated it it was ok
Ben Jelloun is a beautiful writer, I love his use of language and the pictures he paints with them. However, the storyline was sorely lacking and boring. Worth reading for language usage.
Dec 11, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: culture, islam
An interesting read, however I feel like I missed something in the story, not sure what.
Feb 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Review: Leaving Tangier by Tahar Ben Jelloun. 3.5★'s

Tahar Ben Jelloun, a great Moroccan writer can relate about Morocco, the city on the Strait of Gibraltar and the life, the hopes, the deceptive power of appearances, the corruption of its population. When I started reading the English version of this book I couldn’t tell who the narrator was, however in some areas it was Azel the main character who narrated.

The dreams of Azel are the same as many young people who just want to leave Morocco fore
Read for my "understanding the middle east through literature" class. The story of a young Morracan man, Azel, and his sister, Kenza, who emigrate to Spain for a better life. Their struggles with love, with work, with assimilation are exposed in vivid heart-breaking detail. Along with the struggles of Morracan citizens living in poverty and the high level of sexual abuse that they are expected to tolerate, reflecting on the desperation of their life and the corruption in the Morracan government. ...more
Mar 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa
This was particularly interesting to read at a time when there are frequent discussions about the integration of Moroccans into Dutch and Belgian society, especially relating to the attacks in Paris that were carried out by second generation Moroccans. Not to mention the relatively large numbers of refugees being smuggled in to southern Europe by boat, many of whom do not survive the trip.

In 'Leaving Tangier', Azel is also desperate to leave his country and contemplates just such desperate measu
Clizia Riva
Apr 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
A book that is both bitter and full of love: Jelloun deals with the theme of immigration and nostalgia for one's roots, with also cruelty and bitterness. But he gives us a metaletterary ending that should not be lost
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent story telling about the people of Morocco, with special emphasis on one family in Tangier.
Jan 26, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Fails to develop characters adequately

Some interesting characters who could have made for an interesting book but their stories were haphazard and their deaths sudden
Jul 09, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It had such a promising premise and the first half of the novel was intriguing; alas, the novel devolved in the second half and was quite a bore.

Content warning: rape
Fatalist. Full of disillusionment. Haunting.
Apr 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: morocco
14 kilometres.

Or about 8 1/2 miles for you colonials. That's the distance between Morocco and Spain, Europe and Africa, Christianity and Islam, wealth and poverty. It's not that far, really. In Tanger, Azel and his friends sit around smoking kif, sick to death of a world where nothing happens except when the police decide to do a raid, and in Almería (Arabic name, like so many other names in southern Spain; al-mariyat means "The mirror") across the water is paradise. Or so they would like to thi
Ben Jelloun once more engages the reader -This time with a tale about immigration and human dignity or the loss of it along the way. The novel opens with Azel, an unemployed lawyer who immigrates to Barcelona with the help of Michuel in exchange for sex. Azel pretends to be homosexual in exchange for a life of luxury in Spain, but it is not till Miguel humiliates him in front of his friends that Azel truly loses his dignity. Azel's sister, Kenza, also immigrates by marrying the same Miguel. Othe ...more
May 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-extra
Many young Moroccans feel they have few opportunities in their homeland and dream of a better life. From Tangier they can see the lights of Spain, which seem to beckon them with promises of that life. This short novel is about people who dream and leave their old lives. It is not a happy story, some people die and some emigrate. All lose their dreams eventually.
(view spoiler)
Jan 05, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Still not sure about what I just read.I still don't know if the characters were dead or alive at the end...VERY interesting finish!It was kind of "surrealistic" juxtaposed in a "natural" setting.The novel had some interesting twist and turns.However,the same theme resonated with all characters in the novel(except Miguel),desire to escape Tangier,the life of poverty,seedy places,a dominating mother holding on to traditions and a very active "detailed" SEX life had by ALL.Later in the novel it all ...more
Shafiqah Berry
Jan 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this in translation;the title was translated as Leaving Tangier. It was a fascinating read and because of the snow, I was able to finish it in one day. There are so many complex strands to untangle that it left my head spinning. The book is about post colonial Morocco and the complex relationship between Morocco and Spain which the author points out have a mere 8 1/2 miles distance separating them.The major focus of the book is the illegal and desperate immigration of Moroccan youth to Sp ...more
Jan 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-fiction
Coming from a perspective vastly different than any of the characters in the book, I'm not certain that my own context can add much to what is already available within the pages of Leaving Tangier. In some senses, this novel would qualify as post-colonial literature and features many of the same issues confronted by characters in those novels. In another sense, this novel deals with gender roles whether that be from a societal stand point or a sexual standpoint and how in the act of immigration ...more
Tadzio Koelb
Jul 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
A review which got bumped from the Guardian for lack of space:

Azel knows attempting to escape to Spain is dangerous: he saw his cousin’s bloated corpse brought ashore after an illegal crossing went wrong. He knows, too, that not all dangers are physical. Still, he will do anything to leave Morocco, even become another man’s lover. Azel’s story is not just his own: it affects his sister, Kenza, his girlfriends Siham and Soumaya, Miguel, whose love he can’t accept, and many others. The novel visit
Kieran Walsh
Sep 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant, if graphic, post colonial novel dealing with the hopelessness faced by illegal emigrants in Spain. The topic is universal - The frustration faced by a young generation in a country ill equipped to support them. While risking their lives many illegally enter a land of 'milk and honey', where 'everything that glistens isn't gold'. The story revolves around a milieu of individuals that each have a clear objective in order to survive. The principle character being Azel who, leaving a girl ...more
May 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Tahar Ben Jelloun is a Moroccan novelist and he is interested in the cross-border traffic between that country and Spain, where the border isn't a river but the mouth of the Mediterranean. It is less about leaving Tangier that not being able to leave it. Azel is overeducated for the local economy; his sister Kenza is too modern for the local society; together with their widowed mother, more traditional than either of her children, they dream of a Spain that will allow them to enjoy the freedom, ...more
Dec 18, 2014 rated it liked it
This is the story of Azel, a well-educated young Moroccan of good family who yearns to escape the irresolution of his life by fleeing - illegally - to Spain. Through Azels story we meet his friends and lovers, his sister Kenza, and the man who will transform his and his familys life, Miguel. Narrated in chapters by a diverse cast of interlinked characters, the prevailing spirit is one of disillusionment with the conditions in Morocco, the desperation to escape and the withering of dreams once th ...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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“وحده الكذّاب يحلف بأنه لا يكذب” 56 likes
“إن أعظم الأمور لاتُطلب ولاتُنجز إلا بدافع الحبّ أو بسببه او فضله” 53 likes
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