2020 WINNER OF A PEN TRANSLATES AWARD
‘… it is compulsively readable and even uplifting… Tazmamart is a deeply moving testament to the strength of the human spirit’– The Spectator
‘… a powerful tribute to human fortitude and imagination’ – The Guardian
‘…poignant and profound account…’ – The Tablet
‘life-affirming…’– European Literature Network
‘Tazmamart is an utterly heartbreaking book which forces you to completely reconsider your own freedom, pointing out the glaringly obvious fact that at any given second, millions of people are living their own inescapable dystopias.’– New Welsh Review
‘an incredible memoir, a story of indomitability of the human spirit over adversity, an epic story of survival.’
– Irish Examiner
‘Binebine’s Tazmamart narrative is less artful than the others, most of which were co-composed with professional writers. Yet that is also what makes Binebine’s the most achingly real.’– Quantara.de
‘BineBine’s account of the eighteen years he spent in Morocco’s secret prison, sensitively translated by Lulu Norman, is a must read for anyone interested in human rights and Morocco’s hidden past.’–Bookblast
‘reading it, is oddly enough, akin to a kaleidoscopic journey of the most profound, introspective rendition of both poignancy and proportion’– David Marx:Book Reviews
‘A beautifully composed memoir…’– Barnaby Rogerson
‘… timeless prison literature and is a rich testimony of astounding human resilience.’ – Olivia Snaije
‘Lulu Norman’s fine translation brings alive this firsthand account of brutality, injustice and survival.’
– Michèle Roberts
‘…. forensic in its detail of the sheer horror of the place, with flashes of pure poetry and deep humanity in his own tale and that of his fellow inmates. Storytelling during his long years in Tazmamart kept Binebine alive; his book will keep readers engrossed–and aghast–from start to finish.’ – Shereen El Feki, author of Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World
‘This book is both a thriller and a song to the glory of the human that resides in each of us. It’s a cry of despair against the evil of men. But no matter how sombre his words, the writer has no lack of humour or humility.’
– Maati Monib
‘the very best of Moroccan prison literature’–Youssef Fladel
‘In a jumble of rumours, one passed almost unnoticed.
It concerned a military prison being built in the desert. Its name was Tazmamart.’
This is the true story of Aziz BineBine who, unwittingly entangled in a failed coup against King Hassan II, found himself locked in a small, underground cell in a prison thought to be a mere horror story: Tazmamart. For 18 years, no one knew where the prison’s inmates were. No one knew if they were even alive. In many ways, they hardly were: confined for 24 hours a day, with the barest rations, no hygiene or medical help, and accompanied by cockroaches, scorpions, and tarantulas. One of the few to survive, Aziz writes not only to tell his own remarkable story but to remember and honour the men that lived – and died – alongside him. Against the backdrop of this unimaginable suffering, Aziz shows the strength of the human spirit to keep going against all the odds, to smile in the face of misery, and to forgive rather than condemn. Set to become a cult classic of survival literature, Tazmamart is a hellish journey through the abyss of despair – and out the other side.
It’s many years now since Aziz BineBine shyly and politely handed me – his brother’s translator – his book. I knew (but only vaguely) what had happened to him, and I took it with some reverence. I assumed it was a present; I didn’t realise for years that he wanted me to translate it! Aziz has waited so long to see his book get some kind of proper reception… I so wanted, and want, to do him proud. It’s impossible, of course, to escape all the resonances with current events… But there are lockdowns and lockdowns, and comparisons are odorous. Tazmamart is important in the same way as One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich or De Profundis, because the lengths to which humans will go under circumstances of extreme cruelty – for good or ill – always teach us something new about how to live and what matters in the end.
Lucy Popescu discusses the desert Hell that was Tazmamart, the fate of Aizi Binebine, and all things translation with translator Lulu Norman as part of the Bridging the Divide series for The BookBlast Podcast. Listen here.
AZIZ BINEBINE is a Moroccan author and former army officer. He completed his secondary education within the French lycée system and then entered the Royal Military Academy. Appointed as an instructor to train cadets at Ahermoumou Military School, he was unwittingly involved in the 1971 coup d’état against King Hassan II. Judged and condemned, BineBine spent 18 years in Tazmamart prison. He now lives in Marrakech.
LULU NORMAN is a writer, translator, and editor who lives in London. She has translated Albert Cossery, Mahmoud Darwish, Tahar Ben Jelloun, and the songs of Serge Gainsbourg and written for national newspapers, the London Review of Books, and other literary journals, in particular Banipal, the magazine of modern Arab literature, where she is an editorial assistant and regular contributor.