Abdellah Taïa

Abdellah Taïa (born in 1973) is the author of six novels, including Salvation Army and An Arab Melancholia, both published by Semiotext(e), and Infidels. His novel Le jour du roi, about the death of Morocco's King Hassan II, won the 2010 Prix de Flore. He also directed and wrote the screenplay for the 2013 film adaptation of Salvation Army.

  • Another Morocco

    Another Morocco

    Selected Stories

    Abdellah Taïa

    Tales of life in North Africa that flirt with strategies of revelation and concealment, by the first openly gay writer to be published in Morocco.

    Tangier is a possessed city, haunted by spirits of different faiths. When we have literature in our blood, in our souls, it's impossible not to be visited by them. —from Another Morocco

    In 2006, Abdellah Taïa returned to his native Morocco to promote the Moroccan release of his second book, Le rouge du tarbouche (The Red of the Fez). During this book tour, he was interviewed by a reporter for the French-Arab journal Tel Quel, who was intrigued by the themes of homosexuality she saw in his writing. Taïa, who had not publically come out and feared the repercussions for himself and his family of doing so in a country where homosexuality continues to be outlawed, nevertheless consented to the interview and subsequent profile, “Homosexuel envers et contre tous” (“Homosexual against All Odds”). This interview made him the first openly gay writer to be published in Morocco.

    Another Morocco collects short stories from Taïa's first two books, Mon Maroc (My Morocco) and Le rouge du tarbouche, both published before this pivotal moment. In these stories, we see a young writer testing the porousness of boundaries, flirting with strategies of revelation and concealment. These are tales of life in a working-class Moroccan family, of a maturing writer's fraught relationship with language and community, and of the many cities and works that have inspired him.

    With a reverence for the subaltern—for the strength of women and the disenfranchised—these stories speak of humanity and the construction of the self against forces that would invalidate its very existence. Taïa's work is, necessarily, a political gesture.

  • An Arab Melancholia

    An Arab Melancholia

    Abdellah Taïa

    An autobiographical portrait of a gay Arab man, living between cultures, seeking an identity through love and writing.

    I had to rediscover who I was. And that's why I left the apartment.... And there I was, right in the heart of the Arab world, a world that never tired of making the same mistakes over and over.... I had no more leniency when it came to the Arab world... None for the Arabs and none for myself. I suddenly saw things with merciless lucidity....—An Arab Melancholia

    Salé, near Rabat. The mid 1980s. A lower-class teenager is running until he's out of breath. He's running after his dream, his dream to become a movie director. He's running after the Egyptian movie star, Souad Hosni, who's out there somewhere, miles away from this neighborhood—which is a place the teenager both loves and hates, the home at which he is not at home, an environment that will only allow him his identity through the cultural lens of shame and silence. Running is the only way he can stand up to the violence that is his Morocco.

    Irresistibly charming, angry, and wry, this autobiographical novel traces the emergence of Abdellah Taïa's identity as an openly gay Arab man living between cultures. The book spans twenty years, moving from Salé, to Paris, to Cairo. Part incantation, part polemic, and part love letter, this extraordinary novel creates a new world where the self is effaced by desire and love, and writing is always an act of discovery.

  • Salvation Army

    Salvation Army

    Abdellah Taïa

    An autobiographical coming-of-age novel by the the “only gay man” in Morocco.

    An autobiographical novel by turn naïve and cunning, funny and moving, this most recent work by Moroccan expatriate Abdellah Taïa is a major addition to the new French literature emerging from the North African Arabic diaspora. Salvation Army is a coming-of-age novel that tells the story of Taïa's life with complete disclosure—from a childhood bound by family order and latent (homo)sexual tensions in the poor city of Salé, through an adolescence in Tangier charged by the young writer's attraction to his eldest brother, to a disappointing arrival in the Western world to study in Geneva in adulthood. In so doing, Salvation Army manages to burn through the author's first-person singularity to embody the complex mélange of fear and desire projected by Arabs on Western culture. Recently hailed by his native country's press as “the first Moroccan to have the courage to publicly assert his difference,” Taïa, through his calmly transgressive work, has “outed” himself as “the only gay man” in a country whose theocratic law still declares homosexuality a crime. The persistence of prejudices on all sides of the Mediterranean and Atlantic makes the translation of Taïa's work both a literary and political event. The arrival of Salvation Army (published in French in 2006) in English will be welcomed by an American audience already familiar with a growing cadre of talented Arab writers working in French (including Muhammad Dib, Assia Djebar, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Abdelkebir Khatibi, and Katib Yasin).