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on March 30, 2002
"Stolen Lives" needs to be evaluated on two different levels - the moving tale of a family imprisoned under the worst conditions for 20 years and the way this amazing story has been memorialized by Malika Oufkir and Michele Fitoussi. The subject is engrossing and important, but the book itself is not well-written. This accounts for the disparity in ratings that the book has received.
It is fascinating to read about Malika'a unique and frequently heartbreaking life. The eldest daughter of a Morococcan general, she was taken from her family and adopted by the King. Western readers will find the tales of her life in the royal household surprising and enlightening. Not only was the lifestyle outrageously lavish, it was also consisted of customs and traditions that are completely different from our own. Malika was allowed to return to her own family as a young teenager. She only had a few years to get to know her father and enjoy life outside the confines of the palace. Her father before General Oufkir was implicated in a coup attempt against the King and was assassinated. The rest of the family - Malika, her mother, her oldest brother, three young sisters and three year old baby brother were summarily imprisoned. For twenty years they lived in increasingly brutal and inhumane conditions, persecuted by the King for their father's crimes and forgotten by the world. Thanks to their uncommon courage and ingenuity, the family was able to survive and eventually escape. It's not easy to read about many of the horrors and indignities that were heaped upon the Oufkirs, but it's important that the world know about their story.
Unfortunately, the book is not worthy of this amazing story. It was written by Malika with the assistance of Michele Fitoussi. The first problem is that the book does not give sufficient background about either the history of Morrocco or General Oufkir's powerful role as one of the King's chief aides. Those unfamiliar with Moroccan history will frequently find themself at a loss for context. Second, given that this is Malika's first person account, it necessarily is a very one-sided version of history. Not that I doubt her version of events - I just would have preferred a more complete and well-researched book that included not only Malika's story but also those of her siblings. Malika frequently portrays herself as the backbone of the family, the strongest member who kept them all from succumbing to madness. This very likely is true, but it would have a much greater impact coming from someone else. Finally, the writing style is very repetitive and immature. While Michele Fitoussi is very sympathetic to Malika's story and deserves much credit for persuading her to tell her story, I have no doubt that a more objective and skilled writer would have improved the quality of the book immensely. Hopefully a serious scholar will undertake a complete telling of the Oufkir's story. I, for one, will be anxious to read it.
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on June 13, 2001
After reading all the previous reviews I don't have much to add to the fact that it is an excellent read. I watched the 60 Minutes interview of Malika Oufkir before I read the book and the name seemed very familiar to me. It took me a while to realize that I had read about General Oufkir's coup attempt in a semi-fictional novel : The Spy Wore Silk by The Countess of Romanones Aline. Since I feel a sense of unfinishedness among some of the reviewers, I would like to recommend the above book for people who would like a better idea of who General Oufkir was and just how big a betrayal of his king his coup attempt was. Of course this in no way justifies the imprisonment of his family. But I do think that the two books should be read together to get a better view of the context in which the incident took place, and an outsider's view of the Morocco of the time. The author of The Spy Wore Silk is an American married to a Spanish Count.
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on July 17, 2001
Now I have some idea of what it is like to go to hell and come back alive. Shattered, but alive. Malika Oufkir's autobiography, co-written with French journalist Michele Fitoussi, is extraordinarily candid for someone who has been in prison most of her life.
She and her family have experienced crushing, soul-suffocating oppression which has left severe, permanent damage on each member. While their lives have improved, to a certain extent they will all stay locked in time.
It is nothing short of a miracle, therefore, that someone who has been so repressed, can find the courage to reveal themselves with such frankness.
Stolen Lives is a truely unique story of the survival of the human spirit, a suspenseful fusion of fairytale, horror and thriller. It was one of those books I couldn't put down.
After I read the book several months ago, I interviewed Malika Oufkir for several stories I was writing about her. She wavers between fragility and toughness, she is both young and old, compassionate and passionate and displays great courage as well as great fear.
Malika has paid an unusually cruel and high price for her freedom of expression.
Before reading the book, it would benefit readers to do some background reading on events in Morocco which led to the incarceration of the Oufkir family. There are various sites on the Internet detailing the 1972 attempted coup d'etat by Malika's father, General Mohammed Oufkir. Also, reading on the structure of Moroccan society would be useful to understand what it was like to live under the iron-fisted rule of a feudal monarchy.
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on May 23, 2001
This book describes in detail the pain and torment the Oufkir family suffered for over twenty years.Malika was adopted by the king and raised like a princess.When her father tried to assassinate the king, he was murdered and his family would suffer the consequences. Malika's brother was only three at the time and her sister also suffered epilepsy.They were kept in isolation,starved and denied their freedom.They had no choice but to eat the molded bread with rat droppings and rotten eggs that turned green.When the guards realized the children liked pigeons,they would cook them two at a time to torment them. Their love for life is what kept them sane throughout all those years.They were robbed of their youth and freedom.Malika tells her story as if it happened yesterday.Her strength is admirable and you could feel her pain as if you were there.You experience her emotions throughout the book and become attached to her. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone.I read the book without putting it down until my eyes hurt.I never lost interest and felt so much compassion towards Malika and her family.
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on January 6, 2002
No matter what flaws it may have, this book is well worth reading. Published during the life of King Hassan II, who imprisoned the Oufkir family, the book itself is an act of courage and defiance. It is a story that the family was threatened not to tell, and France is geographically close to Morocco.
To better understand the book, it helps to learn a bit about the history of modern Morocco (or to have been there) before reading. Michele Fitousi does not add background information to the Oufkirs' story. Differences between the Berbers (indigenous to the area) and the Arabs (7th century arrivals,most of the ruling class) are important. The role of General Oufkir (a Berber) in restoring Muhammed V to the throne after the successful overthrow of the French colonial government, and the general's disillusionment with the corruption and disregard for the common people shown by Muhammad V's son Hassan II make the attempted coup d'etat more understandable. Both also illumine the spectrum of public responses to the Oufkirs' tragedy. The troubled but close relationship between 20th century France and Morocco is also important.
There is nothing to add to what others have said about Oufkir's profound journey into the core of the human soul. She has the perception to tell us all what she found.
Reading this book, one understands how Hassan II earned the face his photographs show in the last years of his life.
Bravo, Malika!
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on June 23, 2001
This is a book about the effects of imprisonment on the human soul and the eventual triumph of resistance over oppression. Written in simple journalistic style, the narrative reads like a novel but unfortunately represents a harrowing true account of survival. Malika's life changes in one moment from that of a spoiled rich jet setting adolescent to that of a prisoner who must suffer not only deprival of freedom and basic human comforts and necessities, but also contact with fellow family members imprisoned in isolated adjacent cells. The radical change in lifestyle is all the more stiking since it follows a description of her unique childhood experiences as a princess, an adopted daughter of the monarch raised in the palace. The profound injustice of the situation is especially appalling when one considers their innocence in being held accountable for a political crime allegedly committed by the assassinated father, a General. The victims, his wife and children who range in ages 3 from to 20, are committed to live a life of deprivation and endless imprisonment by a despotic Morrocan monarch as punishment for this coup attempt. The book is a powerful way to experience loss of freedom vicariously and from a safe distance and to understand its immediate and long lasting effect on individuals. The title epitomizes the irrevocable loss of life experiences suffered by its victims who on leaving imprisonment must begin life as middle aged or young adults with a 20 year hiatus. The book is touching and deep. It makes one understand the importance of organizations like Amnesty International in at least attempting to make a difference.
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on June 16, 2001
The first word that comes to mine when I think of this book is astounding. This story is told by Malika Oufkir, the oldest of the six Oufkir children that were imprisoned along with their mother and two confidants after their father was assasinated following a failed coup attempt against Moroccon King Hassan II. What makes the story so fascinating is that Malika was an adopted daughter of throne. King Hassan II father, Muhammad V, had adopted Malika Oufkir at the age of five to be a sister/playmate for his daughter Lalla Mina. And now at the age of 18, it seems that Malika's royal status no longer has any meaning when her birth father commits heresy against the throne. The atrocities that this family had to endure was enough to drive any normal person insane, but this family persevered in the face of death threats, starvation, plagues of many different rodents and insects, and devastating illnesses. And to believe this happened from the 70's until the 90's. This is a wonderful read, it moved me to tears and several times to laughter. 6-16-01
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on June 11, 2001
I found that once I picked up this book, I was unable to put it down. I couldn't believe the lifestyles, beliefs, traditions, some of which as archaic as they may be, unreal. This book was fasinating and completely tragic all at the same time. When I finished the book I wanted more. I wanted to know how everyone's life is now. I would recommend this book to anyone who does not believe that tragedies and triumphs like this are no longer in existance. My heart goes out to the Oufkir family.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon June 23, 2001
I saw an interview with Malika Oufkir on Oprah Winfrey's show and was so taken by her courage, her incredible spiritual strength and the unbelievable horror of her tale, that I felt I had to read this book. I found it to be an inspiring testimony to the human spirit but also an honest account of the terrible toll of this family's ordeal, leaving one brother "a permanent child" in Malika's own words, a brother who found adjusting to a normal, free life nearly impossible and who is still suffering the effects of his imprisonment.For their part, Oufkir and her sisters were left suspicious of men, emotionally scarred by what they survived...and yet they also managed to find the strength to serve as witnesses to their injustice and to find the courage to speak out. This is one of the most inspiring true-life accounts I've read in the last year and one I'd put on any "must read" list. If you dont know the details of Oufkir's story, here's a brief summary: At the age of 5, Malika Oufkir, eldest daughter of General Oufkir, was adopted by King Muhammad V of Morocco, a man who wanted an available playmate for his young daughter. While in the palace, Oufkir led a life of a fairy princess, in total luxury --- until her father was found guilty of treason as part of a coup to overthrow the new regime (led by King Hassan II). Malika's father was executed and she, her mother and her brother and sisters were immediately imprisoned. From one day to the next, Oufkir went from luxury to a struggle for her very existence, living in conditions that you can't believe until you read about it. There were times when one or the other would try and commit suicide (her brother when he was only 7) or be forced to eat food drenched in rat urine. And yet they DID persevere and manage to escape to tell their tale. Please don't assume that the grim details in this book (and I won't pull any punches; there are parts of this book that are difficult to read0 take away from the inspiration to be found here. After finishing this book, I actually felt uplifted and was amazed that I did, buoyed by the fact that this family went through such horror and yet managed to find the courage to survive - and then to tell about it.
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on June 9, 2001
This book is about a woman's life as an insider to Moroccan Royalty. The story is told in the first person, and reads as a running commentary on the incredible story of her adoption by King Muhammad V of Morocco, and her growth into adulthood as a victim of a failed coup attempt by her father; a general in the Moroccan Military and close adviser to the King. Her story takes you from grief she feels being torn from her natural family and especially her mother, to be adopted by the King. She describes the spoiled world of a would-be Princess, and her life in horrible prison conditions. A study of extreme contrasts in lifestyles.
I found the story to be fascinating, the imagery of a world unknown in Western culture. The emotions both touch and repel. I found her attitude as a Princess in the palace to be disturbingly egocentric and spoiled, contrasted by the strength and courage she demonstrated while looking after her family in prison. The depictions of the prison life, with the rats, roaches, sand fleas, and other poor conditions made my skin crawl while reading.
My only criticism of the book is that the editing is a bit choppy. The story is so compelling, but it struggles to flow seamlessly from event to event often causing me to go back a few pages and see if I had missed a transition. While this was frustrating at times, the emotional contents of the story overcome any weaknesses in writing style. Some may even enjoy the journalistic approach.
I would recommend this book; it is an incredible journey.
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