|Biographical detail : ||Novelist, poet, playwright and essayist
In 1966, Tahar was arrested as a student radical and detained at a military camp for 18 months. After his release he became a teacher, moved to Paris, in 1971, making his mark as a journalist for Le Monde.
His first novel, Harrouda, set in the traditionalist Fez and cosmopolitan Tangiers of his youth, was published in 1972, out of over dozen novels in French. His doctorate on the sexual misery of North African immigrants, published in 1975 as The Highest Solitude, became Ben Jelloun’s first bestseller.
His other outstanding novels include Sand Child (1985) and The Sacred Night (1987), which won the Prix Goncourt, and both books are about Zahra Ahmed, a girl brought up a boy by a father too ashamed to admit that in a family of seven daughters, his last-born is not a son.
This Blinding Absence of Light (2001), which won the 2004 IMPAC award, is based on a true story in which the narrator, an army officer involved in the 1971 coup against Hassan, survived 18 years in a windowless underground prison cell five feet long by five feet high.
The English translation of Ben Jelloun’s 2003 novel, The Last Friend, now published, comes across as a very personal piece, echoing incidents in his own life. Sons of Tangiers middle class, its narrators Ali and Mamed discover women and politics during the 1960s, against a backdrop of the war of independence in Algeria – detained in a military boot camp for student radicalism.
His non-fiction includes ‘Racism Explained to my Daughter’ (2003), which has been translated into over 40 languages.
Tahar Ben Jelloun, a French citizen, based in Paris, was born in Fez, Morocco.