Or, The Life and Adventures of Jubair Wali al-Mammi
Translated from the French by Judith Roumani
"For readers who treasure a traditional folkloric Judeo-Arabic ‘Arabian Nights’ form of storytelling, this book is a delight."—Jewish Herald-Voice
"This novel brilliantly melds history with imagination, showing us a Mediterranean world which to Western eyes is upside-down, where civilization and sophistication are in the south and barbarism is in the north, and where before the colonial era the indigenous Jews of North Africa were perfectly at home among the other ethnic groups. Memmi’s sensitive and ironic portrayal cuts to the heart of many modern and ancient dilemmas of war, statesmanship and personal ethics."—A.B. Yehoshua, award-winning author of Mr. Mani
"The Desert is a wonderful novel, one of Albert Memmi’s best books. Fascinating, illuminating. Judith Roumani’s translation is excellent, true to Memmi’s writing."—Naim Kattan, author of Farewell Babylon: Coming of Age in Jewish Baghdad
"An important work of Maghrebi francophone literature. . . .
Roumani has managed to veritably channel the voice, timbre,
style, and sometimes quirky qualities of the original."—Lia Nicole Brozgal, associate professor of Francophone studies,
University of California, Los Angeles
"Each episode of his story provides a lesson in wisdom, and the
novel as a whole constitutes an engaging and thought-provoking
mixture of storytelling, reflection, and introspection."—Gerald Prince, professor of Romance languages, University of Pennsylvania
Albert Memmi is the author of numerous philosophical/sociological essays and is particularly
known for his groundbreaking study of the predicament of the colonized in The Colonizer and
the Colonized and for his novels, Pillar of Salt (1953), Strangers (1955), and The Scorpion
(1969), all set in Tunisia. The Desert, first published in French in 1977, is his fourth novel.
In 2004, the Académie Française awarded him the Grand Prix de la Francophonie for his
work as a whole.
Judith Roumani is the translator of Jews in an Arab Land: Libya, 1835–1970 by Renzo De
Felice (1985) and author of Albert Memmi (1987), as well as other studies of Memmi and
numerous publications in comparative literature and Sephardic studies.
Book Description »[Close »]
Hailed as a masterpiece when it was first published in France in 1977, The Desert
tells the story of al-Mammi, a young exiled prince of a now-destroyed Jewish
kingdom in southern Morocco in the late fourteenth century. Fighting battles in
the service of kings, facing imprisonment, and narrowly escaping death, the
prince travels the Islamic world absorbing lessons, often painfully, on how to
govern himself, as well as a country. At the same time, al-Mammi engages on
a spiritual journey to obtain inner wisdom rather than material riches. Memmi
chronicles the prince’s fortunes as they rise and fall, drawing upon the traditions
of Maghrebian storytelling and Arabian tales to offer a highly imaginative and
allegorical novel that provocatively blends history with fiction.
View other series books on Middle East Literature in Translation
6 x 9, 200 pages, 10 black-and-white illustrations, notes