Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Review by juliusotinyo -- Gates to Tangier

Review by juliusotinyo -- Gates to Tangier

Post Number:#1 by juliusotinyo » 20 Jun 2017, 13:15
[Following is a volunteer review of "Gates to Tangier" by Mois Benarroch.]

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3 out of 4 stars

Review by juliusotinyo

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Gates to tangier, by Mois Benarroch.

The story revolves around siblings of a Sephardic Jewish family initially based in Morocco but due to immigration different family members are now living in Paris, Madrid, New York and Jerusalem. From the onset the book presents you with their challenges beginning with the loss of their father and the shock of the impending quest he leaves on his will, a quest to find their secret half brother in Morocco. As they begin the quest their individual personal conflicts play out mainly on family life, marriage, immigration and integration in their settled lands. The story is about family ties, dealing with loss, Zionism and immigration from a Sephardic Jewish point.

After the death of the Benzimra's family patriarch, four siblings; Isaque, Messod, Silvia and Alberto reluctantly depart for Tétouan Morocco to find their secret half brother Yosef. Who is the illegitimate child their father had with a former maid in Morocco, and had been kept a secret till his death. They are obligated to do so as a prerequisite to unlock their inheritance before 5 years of their father's death. Messod, Sylvia and Alberto meet up with their brother Isaque at Barajas airport, where ironically each sibling in their own way see or picture their dead brother Israel wandering about in the airport. I would say in their unity to find a secret brother they remember a brother they truly lost. The journey will take them through Malaga all the way to their destination in Tétouan and finally to Chauoen Morocco. What they find and its underlying mystery is a nice blend of thrilling suspense and scandal, fit for a good read.

The Author's use of monologue from each of the main characters captured their thoughts and feelings nicely giving them a personal feel; making you part of the story, something that I enjoyed a lot. However, it was hard at times to follow especially when the author used unfamiliar Hebrew/Jewish terms which forced me to look them up before continuing. The author also paid too much attention to the personal conflicts of the 4 siblings and less on the actual half brother, hopefully meant for a sequel I hope. Though I still welcome the twist in the end and overall liked the story.

I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in Jewish history and not for those who don't. Also the Sephardic-Ashkenazi rift plays out a lot and especially through Alberto Benzimra. Though not entirely negative, it is being described through a Sephardic Jew and anyone with sensibilities on the subject may take offence.

I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars!

There were several grammar errors, specifically an excessive use of hyphenated words like sic-k, of-ten where inappropriate and I'd also recommend use of a glossary to explain unfamiliar terms, is why I'd not give it a 4. I'd not rate it a 2 because I enjoyed the story and really connected with the characters enough to look for the sequel.

******
Gates to Tangier 
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Review by Genna H -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch

Review by Genna H -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch

Post Number:#1 by Genna H » 07 Mar 2017, 21:46
[Following is a review of "The Expelled" by Mois Benarroch.]

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Mois Benarroch’s The Expelled is a story within a story, each with its own subtleties. The author has written in such a manner that you are unsure whether the events in the main story are fact or fiction, mixing story-telling with narrative, creating an interesting, though initially confusing, blend.

The main story centers on a man whose name is not given – we are left to assume that the character is Mois Benarroch himself. He is a Moroccan Jew, which is a central point to the story as it identifies him in the interlaced theme of racism, segregation, and the affects of each on the individual. As a Moroccan Jew, he is an outcast – his Jewish settlement in Morocco no more and considered too dirty to be accepted in Israel.

As the book continues, Mois begins an affair with a younger version of his wife, Gabrielle, and the affair leads to the story within the story. It’s a story about a bus where the majority (front people) decide that they are better and choose to take command of the bus, creating rules that determine when those less worthy (back people) can use the toilet, how much say they have in the affairs of the bus, even their life and death.

The inner story shows the journey of how segregation begins and its progress – from creating a name of separation to creating the space of separation, and eventually the acceptance of separation as normal. Meanwhile, the outer story of Mois shows what it is in real life – the struggle to be published, the surprise expressed by others when you act contrary to how they think “someone like you” should behave; the feeling of being an eternal outsider.

There was a lot that I liked about this book and a few nuances of which I was not so keen. That being said, I rate this book as 3 out of 4 stars. The psychological and philosophical points which Mois presented in his work kept me intrigued. He managed to present the very contemporary issues of racism and segregation boldly while still being fair-minded and honest. Having experienced racism in Israel, he expresses a duality that separates his life – one where he chooses not to accept the view that he is lesser because of the nation of his birth and one where he would attempt to hide who he was in order to avoid being the outcast – to be one of the majority.

It certainly made me reassess my thoughts on racism from the victim’s point of view. It also brought to light the idea of how racism and segregation begins and how, once it becomes rooted and established, the majority don’t recognize that it is happening or don’t realize it is wrong.

I chose not to give four stars because it did seem to ramble at times. This may have been intentional by the author, but the story was hard to follow at times with its abrupt switches from one story to the other. It also seemed to have some rambling inserted for humor’s sake. At the beginning and at times throughout I found it to be irritating, as though the author were trying to force me to laugh; however, as the book continued, there were times when the subtle humor worked well and felt very natural.

All-in-all, this was a good book that would appeal to thinkers. While it is an enjoyable book, there is more to it than simply reading for entertainment. This is reading for enrichment – reading of another person’s experiences and opinions, of how they were formed and why they are important to all of us today.

******
The Expelled 
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BOOK Review by veniq mars -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch

Review by veniq mars -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch

Post Number:#1 by veniq mars » 10 May 2017, 12:14
[Following is a volunteer review of "The Expelled" by Mois Benarroch.]

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Title: The expelled
Author: Mois Benarroch
Translator: Pamela Deccache
Publisher: Babelcube Incorporated
Genre: Science fiction / fantasy


The narrator comes across Gabrielle, a lady identical to his wife though younger. He ends up cheating on his wife with her. The fact that that lady is actually hi real wife is amazing. He reads her one of his latest work about an hijacked bus and there is drama in the bus regarding the front and back people. The novel is about a story where in the middle someone tells another story. You come across the expelled, the Sephardim who arrived in Morocco after the inquisition. The narrator however feels feels expelled as well. He goes further to explain how. The novel turns into a chilling and far reaching reminder that a story in a story can create a rewarding adventure. Mois presents himself as one of the gifted and acclaimed writer through this work.

The writer turns off a tangent in between the story and suddenly you are extra informed about the discrimination surrounding him against minorities and poverty. He further shares the struggle he goes through as a writer and that he is actually a man of straw. He does not put too much focus on the theme and this avoids boredom. The novel is not so immersed in the main theme.

I love the humour portrayed. Who does not love laughing when reading books. The writer makes fun of serious and emotional situations. Describing security check as machines looking for bombs. How he cools down a boner when he has one, he thinks about the tractors of kibbutz . So much more humour as you keep going. I will definitely remember to grab Mois' work the next time I am down. Books are meant to uplift spirits, they are not supposed to be boring. This is what this unique work is all about.

Every music lover should read this book, the narrator believes he has a music station in his head where he keeps changing songs according to the mood and condition he finds himself in. It also a recommendation for comedy lovers too. Both of them must love reading books first. Such books are sometimes rare to come across. Even so, its really hard to actually settle on a specific group to recommend. If you are a lover of fantasy then it is basically ideal. Most skeptical readers will conclude feeling less gloomy.

The fact that it is a translation makes you scared of the grammar mistakes that you expect. Its positive that the mistakes although present , are few. Somehow you understand the reason for their existence. Apart from the grammar mistakes, it is dense in substance. I love reading this book but even so, it could be much fun if there were no such mistakes.

I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. It is not that bad off after all. It is dramatic. It is full of humour. It is unique. And a lot of readers will find it interesting. No doubt. If you only read one book a year, this is absolutely it.

******
The Expelled 
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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Review -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch

Review by cholmes -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch



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The Expelled written by Mois Benarroch and translated by Pamela Daccache is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma or as the author writes “A story that’s inside another and another and another and apparently they all have nothing to do with each other, or they don’t, even if one tries to find a link.” Perhaps on the surface these stories have nothing to do with one another, but then again, perhaps they do.

The book begins with the narrator as he travels home from Tel Aviv, mindlessly describing his life, his work, and his wife whom he believes wants a divorce, when he sees a young woman who looks exactly as his wife did, twenty-five years ago. Slightly shocked that such an impossible thing could happen he follows her and strikes up a conversation with the woman. The narrator tries to rationalize how the woman in front of him could possibly be his wife, but twenty-five years younger, and yet she is. 

From there the story diverts and becomes another story, which in turn becomes yet another, forcing the reader to decide what is reality and what is impossible. “…it’s a story about love, indifference, fiction, reality or reality that merges with fiction.” Following along the author’s twists and turns through the narrative is like riding a roller-coaster in complete darkness; you have no idea what will happen yet you have some security that you will come out on the other side safely. Even if you question that security, the ride is still enjoyable because it is frightening and unknown; the danger is what makes it fun. So too is the danger in The Expelled enjoyable. How will the author make sense of his predicament? How will he understand what is happening to him and put it in a context the reader will relate to. 

It all comes back to who and what belongs in certain spaces and certain times. Can one person exist in the same space at different times? Can they have multiple identities yet still be the same person? Can the real and the unreal exist in the same plane? And who are you when you are from one place and yet not of that place? Benarroch plays with these seemingly answerless questions and attempts to answer them through his narrative in The Expelled

I give The Expelled 3 out of 4 stars. The book is well written with an unusual narrative voice that pulls you into each story and won’t let go until it is through with you. An unconventional read at worst and philosophical at best, this book asks so many questions that the reader must try to understand and answer, sometimes it’s tough to keep up. I enjoyed the mix of realism and fantasy; it is the only way for the author to have gotten his point across to his readers. At times the multiple story plots can become confusing as the reader tries to untangle exactly where they are in the story while simultaneously dig out further meaning from the narrative, yet the overall impact of the book leaves one questioning further the idea of a bifurcated life and the consequences of it. 

The Expelled by Mois Benarroch is at times confusing and so fantastic the reader loses sight of what the author’s underlying idea is, yet the idea is so powerful it shines through even the most tangled web of narrative.

******
The Expelled 
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BOOK Review OF -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch

Review by Peta2017 -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch

Post Number:#1 by Peta2017 » 12 May 2017, 10:10


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If you enjoy novels which are reflective and philosophical, The Expelled is a must read. The attention-grabbing title certainly lives up to its name.

The Expelled does not tell one story. There are several stories which are intertwined with the common themes of exclusion, rejection and non-acceptance. Readers will be taken on a journey of the superior versus the inferior, the majority versus the minority, and the oppressor versus the oppressed. I give this book a rating of 3 out of 4 stars.

Readers who enjoy historical detail as well as a sociological context will be fascinated by The Expelled. From a historical perspective, Mr. Benarroch skillfully gives a detailed account of the discrimination faced by the Sephardic Jews and the struggles that this particular ethnic group has faced over time. On a another level, The Expelled, is almost autobiographical at some points, as readers will get several glimpses into the author’s personal life, where he showcases quite a few instances of discrimination and ostracism, whether in his career or throughout his relationships with various women and his family.

I loved the powerful and accurate use of symbolism in this book. For example, the use of the wall can be seen as a dividing force, similar perhaps in nature to the Berlin Wall, which is also represents a symbol of division among people. Additionally, Benarroch played upon the concept of the ‘front’ and the ‘back’, to again illustrate the concept of separation. Whilst reading The Expelled, I had flashbacks to George Orwell’s Animal Farm. In particular, the quote which forcefully came to mind was ‘all animals are created equal but some animals are more equal than others’, which was very influential in helping the pigs to rationalize their control and abuse of the other animals in that novel.

Benarroch also heavily relied upon irony in such a way, that readers will be left shaking their heads at the many illogical situations that exists even in our own modern societies. Overall, readers are left with the realization that history is repeating itself in many different societies in numerous ways on a daily basis, even though we may be unaware.

The only major drawback of this book for me, is that of grammar. Some of the sentences are much too long and winding. Consequently, the author ‘lost’ me at several points, during which I found myself re-reading entire paragraphs, just so I could understand the essence of what was being said.

On a whole, I found The Expelled to be a thought-provoking and enlightening read. Whilst not your typical sci-fi novel, Benarroch manages to cleverly blend the absurd with gritty reality. If you enjoy novels that tell more than a story, you should give The Expelled a read.

******
The Expelled 
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Review by Gotsoccer12 -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch

Review by Gotsoccer12 -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch



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Mois Benarroch’s The Expelled does not immediately lend itself to summary. This is in large part due to its telling of multiple stories, inside of a story, inside of the story. If that sounds complicated or confusing, that’s because it is, but do not write The Expelled off yet. They are, after all, pretty interesting stories.

The book opens with our narrator, who remains unnamed throughout the book, on the way home from Tel Aviv via train. He is headed home to Jerusalem and his estranged wife, who he may or may not want to divorce him. We learn that their marital problems stem at least in part from his career as a struggling writer. She grudgingly supports him financially as he pursues his writing, oscillating between wanting to be published more and wanting to remain obscure. If you are wondering why any author might prefer obscurity to fame, the answer is in the book.

Our protagonist arrives at the station, where he is astonished to catch a glimpse of a woman who is the mirror image of his wife 20 years earlier. He strikes up a conversation with the woman who turns out to actually be his wife, Gabrielle, 20 years earlier. He quickly begins an affair with the younger version of his wife because wouldn’t you? If you are dying to know how that one ends, read the book.

One afternoon, our nameless narrator spends his time with young Gabrielle reading, at her request, one of his stories. It is a recent work that is as of yet unpublished and unnamed, maybe not even done; or at least that is what he tells Gabrielle as he begins to read. The story centers around the interrogation of multiple people whose only relation is that they were passengers on a bus travelling across Northern Africa from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. During the account, we learn that the passengers on this bus have already begun self-segregating as “front people” and “back people” when someone is shot and killed. No one knows who has committed this crime and the confusion and fear further cement the lines of segregation. People sitting in the front are identified as good and trustworthy and those sitting in the back as bad and dangerous. Stranger and stranger things begin happening on the bus but everyone takes these things in stride as if there was nothing very odd about them at all. Eventually the bus is involved in a crash and our poor passengers regain consciousness in the interrogation facility. Think magical realism meets the socio-political atmosphere of Israel.

All together, I would give The Expelled 3 out of 4 stars. I ranked it highly because Mois Benarroch has an easy voice that makes it interesting and enjoyable to read. Both the humorous and the painful events and realizations of the book are so palpable that much like Benarroch’s characters, the reader feels a bit lost in the whirlwind of stories stirring through the book. Whether you think this is a good thing or not is up to you. I likened it to the experience of reading Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, which for me was somewhat infuriating until I realized that the absurdity of the writing mimicked the absurdity of the characters’ experiences specifically and of war generally. In other words, The Expelled is a lot to swallow and a little bit confusing, but so is the subject matter that it is addressing.

I felt I could not give The Expelled a 4th star for two reasons. The first is that I felt like some prior knowledge was necessary to follow Benarroch’s line of thought. Totally by chance, I have studied the region in which it is set (the Middle East/North Africa) and felt fairly comfortable with the historical and political allusions that are so central to the story. I knew what to look up if I wanted to know more and I could immediately recognize the story of the bus for the allegory it was. I wonder if people without any prior knowledge would be able to navigate the book and if they would find the story compelling enough to keep reading if they didn't. The second reason I did not give it a 4, is that I felt very unfulfilled by the book’s ending. I was not expecting a happy ending or even for all mysteries to be solved, since that is not how such a story would really end, but the ending felt abrupt and forced. I felt cut short and like there had been no real change. Perhaps this was intentional on the part of the author, but I, for one, want characters that grow and change.

******
The Expelled 
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Review of -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch

Review by Ikingi -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch



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The Expelled vividly captures the urge to belong to a society that constantly criticizes you. How do you fit in a community that supposedly welcomes you with open arms but later on digs into your origin? Mois uses the context of stories within a story creatively without breaking the flow. Stuck between defending his identity as a Jew and defending his place of birth, language and culture, he creatively uses own persona to bring out the challenges affecting immigrant communities.

Mois explore various themes through self-dialogue as well as conversations in juxtaposition. Do we belong just because we share the same ethnicity? Do we belong just because we believe that the land we live in was granted to us by our creator? How do we treat people who supposedly belong to us but where born and brought up in diverse continents and culture? How do we blend in, accommodate and flourish in our diversity rather than disintegrate.


The book is an interesting read for individuals in structured communities that are trying to evolve into a global village. Combined with Mois’ prose, stories within a story, The Expelled is an intuitive read. I would have also loved to read the book in its original language, Hebrew. However, that’s a challenge to me an East African used to English as the main foreign language from my childhood. The book will be an interesting read to people in states facing constant change especially, negative ethnicity as well as string individual opinions.

The bus ride from ocean to sea across Europe clearly brings out the divisions we create in our own minds. The Front people despise the back people for the mere fact that they are seated at the back. Do we choose where to seat on a bus? Should we be hated for sitting at the back of the bus? Low self-esteem by the back people is vividly brought out by Grammatical and her lover.

Is Cash’s death literal? From the bus story, Cash is both literal and also used metaphorically to show what we the world adore. The passengers decide to pray to cash, whom they have now christened a saint for their own safety and to keep off self-guilt. Even though the team is hungry, we can’t rule out the passengers had cash but there were no shops to buy food.

This is an interesting book for all literature lovers. I would recommend the book to anyone interested in building their story telling skills even though it might be boring to casual readers. I give the book a 3 out of 4 stars.

******
The Expelled 
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Review . -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch

Review by Iviss -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch


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The Expelled

"The Expelled" is a book written by Mois Benarroch, a prolific writer of Moroccan origin. It explores various themes, for instance, love and sexuality, gender issues, class inequality, adultery, the position of the artist an the role of art, including the historical background and the position of Moroccan Jews, which is based on the author's personal perspective, as he himself is of the same origin.

The book belongs to SCI-FI and fantasy genre, but it is at the same time a real-life story, showing us what happens when an ordinary man becomes "the expelled", estranged from his family, society and work and life in general. By using characters' string of consciousness, and the mixture of fantasy elements and real-life events, which are perfectly embedded in the story, the author contributed to producing a very strong effect on the reader.

Although the plot is difficult to retell, here is the brief summary . The main character is the narrator of the story, but we do not know his name. I suppose that he is "The Expelled". However, we are presented with some information from his life- he is a writer, trying to pursue a successful career, and he is married, although not happily. The key moment in the book is when he meets a young Gabrielle at the bus station, and immediately falls for her. After a series of events and adultery scenes, we realize that Gabrielle junior, as he calls her, and his wife are actually one and the same person. During his meetings with Gabrielle, he reads her the story he has written, called "The Bus". It is a story about discrimination and oppression, as there are two groups of people, the front and the back people. As opposed to the front people, who are considered as wise and noble, the back people are called "the bad people", so there is a sort of hierarchy involved.

What I liked the most about the book is that there are so many examples from literature and music. There are verses and quotes written by famous authors, such as Charles Bukowski and Baudelaire, as well as stanzas from Van Morison's or Lenard Cohen's songs. The language is simple and adapted to various age groups, so if you are a fan of plain, realistic and honest writing, than this is the right book for you. On the other hand, what I did not like about the book is its structure, which is extremely difficult to follow and memorize.

The plot of the novel is difficult to retell due to highly complicated structure- the story within a story within a story within a story, which means that there are three different stories in the same novel. It is almost impossible to memorize all the characters and events, and since this is one of the most complex novels I have ever read, [b]I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. Owing to its complexity and difficulty to follow the story, I cannot give this book all 4 stars.

To sum it all up, "The Expelled" is a kind of novel which leaves impression and make us ask ourselves important questions: Who am I? Where do I belong? What did I become? The book leads us on a mysterious journey, and just when you think that the story comes to an end, the author sur

Review -- Keys to Tetouan by Mois Benarroch



Review by EmSwan -- Keys to Tetouan by Mois Benarroch

Post Number:#1 by EmSwan » 04 Aug 2017, 15:15
[Following is a volunteer review of "Keys to Tetouan" by Mois Benarroch.]

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3 out of 4 stars

Review by EmSwan

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With a past as rich and complex as the Jewish religion, it can’t have been a difficult concept to come up with, especially for Mois Benarroch, a Moroccan born writer and poet. What is impressive, however, is the way he has woven this history into a rich and complex novel.

Keys to Tetouan depicts the sprawling history of the Benzimra family, from 1868 to what appears to be an unspecified date in the future. This sprawling legacy is described to the reader from a wide range of perspectives and characters, more often than not, the male relations of the Benzimra line, from uncle to son to cousin. The Benzimra family tree casts its members all over the world, from Paris to Brazil. Within this vast area each narrator has a story to tell, each with different trials and triumphs as they travel the globe.

Throughout the novel, Benarroch carefully places many clues which only gain meaning in retrospect, tying together the individual histories of characters into a tapestry of narration. A prime example of this is the school, known as ‘The Alliance.’ This is referenced throughout, by many narrators, which illustrates the thought into the order of the plot by Benarroch.

Personally, I initially found the novel difficult to follow. This is due to the dialogue seeming quite erratic, however, as the novel progressed, the dialogues seemed to fall into place more. I am undecided as to whether this is due to the author or my perspective as the reader, nevertheless, I wouldn’t let any initial confusion put off a reader. Another aspect I noticed on the delivery of the story was the fact it is initially all in dialogue, yet progresses to a variety of narration styles. This felt slightly awkward to start with – what were the characters doing? Thinking? There was nothing to answer this. It also felt that during this dialogue stage, often the sentences were long and rambling, changing subjects many times. To start with this felt like a flaw, still, as the novel progresses, so did the variety of sentence types. As a result of this evolution in writing style throughout, it leaves me unsure as to whether the start was purposefully stylistic or a simple mistake?

A final note would be the frequent use of culture-specific word choices, which I personally found to be interesting to research and educate myself further, but would be useful to bring to the attention of those who may not wish to look-up new vocabulary. A second thing I would definitely note is an occasional lack of grammar, such as ‘they preferred this will be.’ Similar mistakes did occur throughout, which is registered by the author in the prologue in a very interesting manner.

In summary I would rate this novel 3 out of 4 stars, due to its good plot and interesting story line, despite initial confusion the novel improved dramatically and had a completely unexpected, but most appreciated, ending. I would recommend this novel for anyone with an interest in history and a love of a detailed storyline.

******
Keys to Tetouan 
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Review -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch

Review by Sgatev23 -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch



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Mois Benarroch, an award-winning poet and novelist (Amichai Prize, Prime Minister Prize), is an author of more than twenty books. His short novel, The Expelled, is part of a compendium of seven novels under the name Amor y Exilios (Love and Exile).

This remarkable novella relates the story of a writer who falls in love with a young woman, Gabrielle, whose name and appearance are exactly like his wife’s, only she is twenty-five years younger. A question arises whether they are the same person or not. The mysterious event shapes a narrative which reveals vivid features immanent to magic realism, or, more accurately, to metafiction, genres that reject any of the conventional rules imposed by traditional modernism. It is not long before the reader is forced to consider the story not only as a creative product but as a creative process. As the unnamed writer admits:

“It could very well be the pure imagination of a writer, an idea to write a novel or a story, although I am not very good at writing short stories, I need more words. It must have been just that, one should not play with coincidences or imagination.”

The overt romance, then, quickly fades away when both characters enter the fictive world of the writer-protagonist’s short novel. There, the kidnapping of a bus slowly shapes itself into an allegory of the problematic relationship between Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews. The bus is separated between the ‘back’ people and the ‘front’ people, and those adjectives, at first only terms used for better accuracy, soon become vividly emblematic of social classes and ethnic groups. In the aftermath of this event, while the central plot is seeking to find out who gunned down Cash, one of the ‘back’ people in the bus, the passengers recount their individual stories about that time when they were all together “between two seas, two worlds.” But whom to?

The self-reflexivity of the novel becomes ever more apparent when the main protagonist’s soliloquy is interrupted by his mysterious interrogators.

“Well, I see that in here I'm going to be talking alone and nobody is going to respond to anything. I don't even know if you're listening, maybe you've fallen asleep, or there's just one of you, or you're recording this and then you'll listen to only parts of what I say.”

This narrative bifurcation befuddles the reader as he sinks deeper and deeper into these metafictional layers and, at the same time, is invited by the very character to take his active role in interpreting the events (“… if I write our encounter one day it'll be a story in which someone tells a story about someone who's telling a story.”).

The Expelled is one of those literary gems with quantum-like properties which deem any genre categorization impossible. Apart from some minor editorial imperfections, a solid 3 out of 4 is what any perceptive reader would rate this brilliant piece of writing. Benarroch’s flouted play with fiction and reality gains him a well-deserved place right next to Wells, Fowles, and Borges.

******
The Expelled 
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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Review by Klare Allison -- Keys to Tetouan by Mois Benarroch

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Keys to Tetouan is the first of The Tetouan Trilogy written by Mois Benarroch. The themes of exile, discrimination, rootlessness, disillusionment, oppression and homeland are palpable in this historical document which details the account of a fictitious Jewish family, the influential Moises Benzimra and his descendants who migrated to Spain. After the Spanish expulsion of the Jews in the Sixteenth Century, this small Jewish community settles in Tetouan which is located at the northern part of Morocco, about 100 miles to Spain. From this location, the Benzimras begin further migrations to Africa, Europe and America in the hope of eventually returning to Spain or going back to their homeland. Thus, the author brings to the fore the Jewish Diaspora question and attempts to document this through the lives of the Benzimra family of Tetouan.

From the first page of chapter one which is entitled The Allies 1996, the reader gets a sense urgency or hurry, if you will, from the tone/diction of the narrator, Fernando Benzimra. This sense of urgency is mostly discernible in his confused hurried and repettitive manner of speech. For instance, when he tracks his cousin, Moshe Benzimra, in what appears to be in most part, a rambling monologue, he says to him, “Hold it, Hold it, slowly, slowly, or quickly, quickly, because I'm leaving tomorrow, and you know where I'm going to, to Tetouan” (7). There is intense nostalgia, a psychological baggage of what I refer to as “homeland hunger”, which pervades the entire narrative. As a result, the characters seem to live in an everlasting exile, notwithstanding their individual accomplishments in professional areas such as medicine and engineering. The sense of exile never leaves them completely, even when they return to their own land, Israel, their anguish of rootlessness still continues.

The storyline of Keys to Tetouan, like the Jewish migration, follows confusing pathways. This writing style may well be a stylistic device utilized by Mois Benarroch to represent the psychologically disoriented state of his migrant characters as they continue their quest for a homeland. The complexities around this quest, that odd sense of being “neither here nor there” and the ambivalence of being of Jewish ancestry in a world which remains unwelcoming, seem to drive the Benzimras’ perpetual voyage. Like many Jews scattered across different continents of the world in search of home, peace, relevance and better life, the Tetouanese dream of Jerusalem and are compelled by the disillusionments occasioned by discrimination to look towards their homeland for acceptance. The yearning for homeland is so much that some of them return at old age so that they will be buried in their land when they die.

The concepts of home and keys are widespread in the narrative. What does home symbolize? The keys under reference in this narrative to have a very long history. Where are the keys located? Will the Benzimras find the keys which they search for in Tetouan, Israel or somewhere else in the world? What, really, are the keys to Tetouan? Well, the key to all these questions and other Jewish revelations are embedded in the history of the Benzimras.

In its original language, obviously Spanish, this novel may have made a better reading. Anyone who is willing to surmount the roadblocks of what I have decided are mostly translational and editing errors, will enjoy this otherwise beautiful historical material which has been, evidently, put together with a good dose of humour. However, based on the final product before me, I am constrained to rate Keys to Tetouan 3 out of 4 stars because of the plethora of grammatical errors such as “I could have went to the synagogue” (84), “gave him the opportunity of live of writing” (128), and “did Zionism failed with me” (177). One of the things I dislike about this book is the difficulty presented by the author’s style of rendering point of views which, for the reader, becomes an exercise in learning to be patient. Also, there are what appear to be paragraphing, punctuations, diction and formatting issues in the book. At the end of the reading I am left wondering, are all these literary contraptions or did the translator(s) and publisher do a disservice to this piece? Nevertheless, because of the wealth of historical information contained in this document (which is why I resisted a 2 Stars rating), I recommend it to lovers of Jewish history, like me, who are ready to wade through all these concerns and get to the heart of Mois Benarroch’s thoughts on the Jewish Diaspora question.

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Keys to Tetouan 
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