This was another of the Europa Edition books I picked up cheap at the Border’s going out of business sale. And like Jenn Ashworth’s A Kind of Intimacy (which I really enjoyed), front and center in Marouane’s tale is an unreliable author. If we take Mohamed Ben Mohktar (aka Basile Tocquard) at his word, he is desperately wanting to break free of his domineering mother, his devout younger brother, and their expectations of religious orthodoxy. At the age of 40 despite having a well paying job in Banking, Mohamed still lives at home and is still a virgin. In the opening pages Mohamed has a singular focus: to get his own apartment in Paris so that he can pursue his delusions of sexual grandeur.
I actually quite enjoyed this book as long as it seemed like a straightforward narrative. But the author had something much more clever in mind that eventually had me scratching my head. You see I love stories of people finding themselves and forging their way in the world. And this one had that quality until it began to dawn on me that perhaps Mohamed’s story was not as it seemed. And now that I have looked around on the Internet, I understand what the author was up to. A re-read would be a semi-fulfilling thing to do, but time marches on and I must move on to the next book.
This review by Emma Garman at Words Without Borders explains it much better than I can.