In this harrowing novel, a young Moroccan bookseller is falsely accused of being involved in jihadist activities. Drugged and carried off the street, Hamuda is "extraordinarily rendered" to a prison camp in an unknown location where he is interrogated and subjected to various methods of torture.
Narrated through the voice of the young prisoner, the novel unfolds in Hamuda’s attempt to record his experience once he is finally released after six years in captivity. He paints an unforgettable portrait of his captors’ brutality and the terrifying methods of his primary interrogator, a French woman known as Mama Ghula. With a lucid style, Himmich delivers a visceral tale that explores the moral depths to which humanity is capable of descending and the limits of what the soul can endure.
The Theocrat takes as its subject one of Arab and Islamic history's most perplexing figures, al-Hakim bi-Amr Illah ("the ruler by order of God"), the Fatimid caliph who ruled Egypt during the tenth century and whose career was a direct reflection of both the tensions within the Islamic dominions as a whole and of the conflicts within his own mind. In this remarkable novel Bensalem Himmich explores these tensions and conflicts and their disastrous consequences on an individual ruler and on his people. Himmich does not spare his readers the full horror and tragedy of al-Hakim's reign, but in employing a variety of textual styles — including quotations from some of the best known medieval Arab historians; vivid historical narratives; a series of extraordinary decrees issued by the caliph; and, most remarkably, the inspirational utterances of al-Hakim during his ecstatic visions, recorded by his devotees and subsequently a basis for the foundation of the Druze community — he succeeds brilliantly in painting a portrait of a character whose sheer unpredictability throws into relief the qualities of those who find themselves forced to cajole, confront, or oppose him.
This award-winning historical novel deals with the stormy life of the outstanding Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldun, using historical sources, and particularly material from the writer's works, to construct the personal and intellectual universe of a fourteenth-century genius. The dominant concern of the novel — the uneasy relationship between intellectuals and political power, between scholars and authority — addresses our times through the transparent veil of history. In the first part of the novel, we are introduced to the mind of Ibn Khaldun as he dictates his work to his scribe and interlocutor. The second part delves into the heart of the man and his retrieval of a measure of happiness and affection in a remarriage, after the drowning of his first wife and their children at sea. Finally we see Ibn Khaldun as a man of action, trying to minimize the imminent horrors of invading armies and averting the sack of Damascus by Tamerlane, only to spend his last years lonely and destitute, having been fired from his post as qadi, his wife having gone to Morocco, and his attempts at saving the political situation having come to nil.
Award-winning novelist Bensalem Himmich’s third novel to be translated into English is a vertiginous exploration of one of Islam’s most radical thinkers, the Sufi philosopher Ibn Sab’in. Born in Spain, he was forced to immigrate to Africa because of his controversial views. Later expelled from Egypt, Ibn Sab’in made his way to Mecca, where he spent his final years.
Himmich follows the philosopher’s journey, outlining an array of characters he meets along the way who usher in debates of identity and personal responsibility through their interactions and relationships with Ibn Sab’in. Set against the backdrop of a politically charged thirteenth — century Islamic world, Himmich’s novel is a rich blend of fact and imagination that re — creates the intellectual debates of the time. As the culture of prosperity and tradition was giving way to the chaos created by political and social instability, many Arabs, as Ibn Sab’in does in the novel, turned inward toward a spiritual search for meaning. In his fictional portrait of Ibn Sab’in, Himmich succeeds in creating a character, with his many virtues and flaws, to whom all readers can relate.