Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Palace in the Old Village

A Palace in the Old Village
A Palace in the Old Village
Tahar Ben Jelloun

Mohammad, a Moroccan man living in France with his family, suddenly realizes that he is facing imminent retirement. He is forced to stop working at the auto factory where he's been employed for the last 40 years, ever since he emigrated from his beloved hometown in Morocco.

He considers retirement a form of death, Indeed, he worries over the fate of others who, seemingly healthy and full of life, quickly passed on when it was time for them to retire. He wonders - what will fill his days now that the factory has no more use for him? What is his purpose? Surely his children will look after him?

Mohammad will not live out his years aimlessly. He returns to his village to fulfill the ideals he was brought up believing in with all his heart. He will build a great house, give glory to his God, and live surrounded by his children. Yes, even his daughter who married that Italian Christian.

Unfortunately, his children are "Frenchies" through and through. Their adopted homeland has laid its claim on them.

Despite the very specific setting, the themes in The Palace in the Old Village are resoundingly universal. Generation gaps, family clashes, fear of outliving your usefulness. For such a slim little novel, there's quite a bit to work with.

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