Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Book Review: Look and Move on by Mohammed Mrabet

Look and Move OnLook and Move On by Mohammed Mrabet
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mohammed Mrabet is a Moroccan writer and artist who has lived most of his life in Tangier. This is his memoir of the days when it was an international haven for writers, artists, thieves, con men, homosexuals, pederasts, and the idle rich. Like For Bread Alone by Mohamed Choukri, it shows the flip side of this foreigner's paradise, the life of poor Moroccans struggling to survive and often having to serve the newcomers in various unpleasant ways.
Mrabet didn't escape this. At the age of sixteen, he got taken up by an American couple who vied with each other for his sexual favors. They take him to the U.S., where he has more fun with the local Puerto Ricans and blacks than he does with the staid middle class whites. There are some hilarious scenes of culture clashes in these passages. Later he meets Paul and Jane Bowles, who launch his career as a writer. They, too, take him to the States with similarly numerous results. We also get to follow Mrabet's adventures with European swingers, falling into matrimony, and his rather Zen philosophy of life.
While I found this slim volume fascinating because I've spent a lot of time in Tangier and read a great deal about its history, someone who isn't a fan of the place will miss a lot of the references. For example, Marguerite McBey is mentioned but nothing is said about her important place in Tangier society. I hope this work is republished with a long introduction to explain the context to those readers who have not learned about it from other sources.

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