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Leaving Tangier: A Novel Paperback – March 31, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As several expatriate Moroccans learn in Jelloun's latest, it doesn't matter how difficult life may be in the home country, a whole new set of difficulties waits in the promised land. Most of the novel focuses on Azel, a young Tangier native and a self-described Arab who doesn't like himself. Desperate to escape, Azel agrees to become the object of affection for a wealthy Spaniard named Miguel, who takes him in after a brutal police beating. Leaving behind his family and girlfriend for the good life he's imagined in Spain, he soon learns that daydreams can be misleading—and that the life he's always wanted is causing him, despite his benefactor's best intentions, to self-destruct. Before long, Azel's sister Kenza, a nurse, weds Miguel to gain Spanish citizenship, then falls in love with an expatriate Turk who comes with his own set of problems. This harsh, unsentimental view of the risks and regrets of emigration—as well as the stunning realities of life under Islam law—is a stark, straightforward tale that readers can't help getting caught up. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

Award-winning Jelloun offers a forthright novel illuminating the dreams and harsh realities of emigration. Brother and sister Azel and Kenza are living in Tangier, Morocco. Azel has two degrees but is unable to find work, and spends his evenings at a café from which he can see the lights of Spain. He longs obsessively to emigrate to Europe, convinced that only there will he be successful. When Azel is brutally beaten, Miguel, a wealthy Spaniard, comes to his aid and helps Azel get a visa to Spain on the provision that Azel will become his lover. Azel leaves his family and girlfriend to accompany Miguel to Spain but becomes increasingly disillusioned when he realizes that his new country is not the easy answer to his visions of a better life. Kenza soon joins Azel to pursue her own desires and meets a Turkish man with a dark secret. Jelloun’s compelling characters often fall prey to the shadow side in their quest for a bright future in this frank and authentic tale of hope, risk, and regret. --Leah Strauss
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 275 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 1 edition (March 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143114654
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143114659
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #632,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Leaving Tangier" is Moroccan author Tahar Ben Jelloun's portraits of immigrants and would-be immigrants, who reluctantly leave or are forced to leave their homes and families for what is often the false promise of a new and more rewarding life in a different country and culture. These unlooked-for departures are necessary because Morocco (and many other countries) cannot provide them with any reasonable opportunity for a decent future, and these are people who are unwilling to accept that fate so early in life.

Each of the characters in this book--Azel, the handsome and well-educated young man who moves to Barcelona to become the companion of a wealthy gay Spaniard; Kenza, Azel's sister who leaves Morocco in pursuit of the perfect romance that might provide equality and security; Malika, the teenage girl who dreams of personal independence but is forced to leave school to work in a frigid canning plant; Mohammed Larbi, who because he attempts to help a young woman matched for marriage with an old man, disappears into a jihadist training camp in Pakistan; and Nazim, the Turk, who is exiled to Spain by gamblers to whom he owes more money than he can repay and ruins his own life, that of his Turkish family and ultimately, of Kenza, who believes him to embody her dream of the perfect mate--face enormous odds against success, but they all have an unusual degree of personal courage that pushes them to attempt a leap into a better life.
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By TiffT on September 10, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I absolutely loved this book. If you understand Moroccan culture you will understand what these characters are going through (or in my case, give even more insight to the struggles they face on a more personal level.). I highly recommend this book to everyone!! We all have a lot to learn from these characters.
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Format: Paperback
This novel deserves to be read as it captures the essence of what life is like for immigrants both legal and illegal. The dreamlike opening and closing chapters were especially hauntingly evocative. Set in the 1990's Leaving Tangier is told through the various main characters each relating their own desires, doubts and feelings. Whilst this method of delivery allows Ben Jelloun wider scope to explore the various reasons why people emigrate, I felt that the book suffered from too much fragmentation.
Azel, a well educated 24 year old Moroccan, becomes involved with Miguel, a very rich Spanish Art Dealer. Initially set in Tangier, the latter part of the book is set in Barcelona. Particularly well drawn out is Azel's conflict between his love for women and being kept by a gay man. There is much to savour from this book as it reveals so much of what living in another country is like for people whose own upbringing, customs and traditions differ so much.
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Living in Spain as I do and overlooking Morocco, I found it interesting to get into the mindset of the Moroccan people. It puts many issues into perspective and when we read the newspapers telling of people dying en route to Europe...it resonates much more deeply. The book also examines the various attitudes of people who leave their homeland and how it impacts their lives in so many different ways....a good easily readable book.
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This is must read for any one who wants to know more about contemporary Morocco, and/or the Arab Spring. Azel, the main character, and his sister Kenza are young people with hopes and dreams, but the only way they can see to fulfill them is to leave home, and cross the strait to Spain. They'll go to extraordinary lengths to accomplish that end. The results may be more than they bargained for. Tahar ben Jelloun's writing makes you care desperately about these all-too-human characters. I couldn't put it down.
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