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The Sand Child Paperback – May 31, 2000

3.1 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Seemingly cursed to father only daughters in a society that devalues females, an Arab conceals the birth of an eighth girl by proclaiming the child, Ahmed, a son and heir. The tale that follows is a cynical, dreamlike exploration of the roles into which Arab men and women are shaped: shackles to some, yet a clear identity and a well-defined bridge connecting the individual to society. At first Ahmed takes a dark delight in "his" secret, observing to his mother scornfully, "You keep quiet and I give the orders. How ironic! How have you managed not to breathe the slightest seed of discontent into your daughters?" Later a madness descends on "him" and is chronicled in letters, a diary and a continually unwinding story with more than one ending. The fragmented, elliptical approach Jelloun takes to his subject is not entirely successful, but his narrative can be savored for its rich, incantatory prose.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Hauntingly poetic and original.

(Times Literary Supplement)

Ben Jelloun, a writer of much originality, succeeds brilliantly in infusing his story with a melancholy that attaches itself not just to Ahmed but also to the Arab world.

(Chicago Tribune)

Mythic, symbolic, at times even highly poetic... At the center of this magical tale the question of gender (and the tangential problems of race and culture) predominates... The ending is absolutely startling.

(Washington Post Book World)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; Johns Hopkins paperback ed edition (May 31, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801864402
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801864407
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #190,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This translation--unfortunately the only one of the Sand Child-- misses the mark in conveying an accurate representation of Ben Jelloun's novel. There are a number of glaring errors and omissions of original text. If it is at all possible to read the work in the original, one must. My rating is of the translation, not the original.
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Format: Paperback
Tahar Ben Jelloun's The Sand Child is the story - or more accurately the legend - of Hajj Ahmed Suleyman's eighth daughter, whom he raises as a man during Morocco's French Protectorate period to circumvent Islam's inheritance laws. Throughout the novel Hajj Ahmed's daughter struggles with the issue of gender identity, oscillating between being the male Ahmed and female Zahra. This ambiguous and fluctuating identity coincides with a confusing and often difficult to follow narrative structure that resembles the oral narrative of the traditional Moroccan storyteller reciting the legend of the life of "our character" Ahmed/Zahra to a crowd of listeners in the square of Marrakech. But halfway through the novel, the storyteller suddenly dies, leaving the story of Ahmed/Zahra unfinished. In an attempt to finish the story, three of the storyteller's most dedicated listeners `take turns completing' Ahmed/Zahra's legend. Each telling results in a different ending, undermining the possibility of one true ending, just as Ahmed/Zahra never attains one stable identity. Instead, our character, in all of the tellings of his/her life, confesses at the end of the novel, "`After all, I don't even know who I am!'" (146). While the convoluted narrative structure and rapid cycling of narrators make The Sand Child overly complicated at times, these narrative strategies are indispensable in conveying Ahmed/Zahra's tortuous journey for identity.

Ahmed/Zahra's ambiguous status between male and female reflects Moroccan society on two levels. First, Ahmed/Zahra's ability to function as a male in Morocco despite being born a woman critiques the patriarchal society of Ben Jelloun's home country.
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Format: Paperback
If you are interested in the a dynamic world of storytelling read The Sand Child. It takes you through many tales which weave in and out of social constructs. What constructs create a female? What constructs create a male?
When I read this novel it took me through a range of emotions. It took me into arid land and it made me feel as if I was experiencing The Sand Child's world.
This book question gender construction. It has all the makings of a wonderful novel. I loved it and it made me change my perspective on how I view my world.
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Format: Paperback
Tahar Ben Jelloun's The Sand Child is written around the concept of social construction of gender. The novelist succeeds in sustaining this theme throughout the novel. I believe that Jelloun uses the theme of gender manipulation and social perceptions of sex as a social construct throughout the novel, although it is not the only theme he discusses in his masterpiece. Jelloun shines the flashlight on the circumstances that surround Ahmed's dilemma. The child's Father is a complex personality. He knows that Ahmed is really a female, but at the same time insists that he is a man. In other words, he assigns the social construct of masculinity to a child who is evidently female. The reason for doing so is not simply to denigrate women but to ensure that his property is not inherited by outsiders given that inheritance is the prerogative of the male child in the culture under scrutiny. Ahmed's father thinks of ways in which he will keep his ruse concealed from the prying eyes of the public.

Ahmed is thus presented in this novel as the victim of social concircumstances fueled by biases and misconceptions. Ironically, having fallen into the trap set for her by her father, Ahmed begins to talk to her sisters on condescending terms. She feels superior to them believing that she is a "man". Jelloun's novel creates the dilemma in which social construction of gender imprisons most people in contemporary society. It is a novel worth reading meticulously.
Dr. Peter Vakunta is a professor of Post-colonial literatures. He teaches at the Defense Language Institute, Monterey, CA-USA.
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By N. Sclair on October 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
I purchased this book for a class, and Ill admit, once I picked it up, I couldnt put it down. The relationship between the characters and gender identity issues and very interesting. The only part I didnt like (and debated in class), was the multiple narrators that created a story within a story. It seemed out of sync and a little unnecessary, but thats just my opinion! A+ I'd still recommend it to anyone.
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