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Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail (Oprah's Book Club) Hardcover – June 1, 2001

4.0 out of 5 stars 318 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

Oprah Book Club® Selection, May 2001: At the age of 5, Malika Oufkir, eldest daughter of General Oufkir, was adopted by King Muhammad V of Morocco and sent to live in the palace as part of the royal court. There she led a life of unimaginable privilege and luxury alongside the king's own daughter. King Hassan II ascended the throne following Muhammad V's death, and in 1972 General Oufkir was found guilty of treason after staging a coup against the new regime, and was summarily executed. Immediately afterward, Malika, her mother, and her five siblings were arrested and imprisoned, despite having no prior knowledge of the coup attempt.

They were first held in an abandoned fort, where they ate moderately well and were allowed to keep some of their fine clothing and books. Conditions steadily deteriorated, and the family was eventually transferred to a remote desert prison, where they suffered a decade of solitary confinement, torture, starvation, and the complete absence of sunlight. Oufkir's horrifying descriptions of the conditions are mesmerizing, particularly when contrasted with her earlier life in the royal court, and many graphic images will long haunt readers. Finally, teetering on the edge of madness and aware that they had been left to die, Oufkir and her siblings managed to tunnel out using their bare hands and teaspoons, only to be caught days later. Her account of their final flight to freedom makes for breathtaking reading. Stolen Lives is a remarkable book of unfathomable deprivation and the power of the human will to survive.

From Publishers Weekly

While accounts of the unjust arrest and torture of political prisoners are by now common, we expect such victims to come with a just cause. Here, Oufkir tells of the 20-year imprisonment of her upper-class Moroccan family following a 1972 coup attempt against King Hassan II by her father, a close military aide. After her father's execution, Oufkir, her mother and five siblings were carted off to a series of desert barracks, along with their books, toys and French designer clothes in the family's Vuitton luggage. At their first posting, they complained that they were short on butter and sweets. Over the years, subsequent placements brought isolation cells and inadequate, vermin-infested rations. Finally, starving and suicidal, the innocents realized they had been left to die. They dug a tunnel and escaped. Recapture led to another five years of various forms of imprisonment before the family was finally granted freedom. Oufkir's experience does not fit easily into current perceptions of political prisoners victimized for their beliefs or actions. In fact, she was the adopted daughter of King Muhammad V, Hassan II's father, sent by her parents at age five to be raised in the court with the king's daughter as her companion and equal. Beyond horrifying images such as mice nibbling at a rich girl's face, this erstwhile princess's memoir will fascinate readers with its singular tale of two kindly fathers, political struggles in a strict monarchy and a family's survival of cruel, prolonged deprivation. (Apr.)Forecast: A bestseller in France, where Morocco is always a hot issue, this oddly gripping book should also do well here thanks to Oufkir's appearance soon on 60 Minutes and a five-city tour. Film adaptation is a distinct possibility, especially given the book's publisher.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 293 pages
  • Publisher: Miramax Books; First Edition ~1st Printing edition (June 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786868619
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786868612
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (318 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #380,457 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"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.
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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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