Return to Childhood
By Leila Abouzeid
Translated by the author with Heather Logan Taylor
Forward by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea (1998)
Leila Abouzeid, whose novel Year of the Elephant has gone through six reprintings, has now translated her childhood memoir into English. Published in Rabat in 1993 to critical acclaim, the work brings to life the interlocking dramas of family ties and political conflict.
Against a background of Morocco's struggle for independence from French colonial rule, Abouzeid charts the development of personal relationships, between generations as well as between husbands and wives. Abouzeid's father is a central figure; as a strong advocate of Moroccan nationalism, he was frequently imprisoned by the French and his family forced to flee the capital. Si Hmed was a public hero, but the young daughter's memories of her famous father and of the family's plight because of his political activities are not so idyllic.
The memoir utilizes multiple voices, especially those of women, in a manner reminiscent of the narrative strategies of the oral tradition in Moroccan culture. Return to Childhood may also be classified as an autobiography, a form only now gaining respect as a valid literary genre in the Middle East. Abouzeid's own introduction and Elizabeth Warnock Fernea's foreword discuss this new development in Arabic literature.
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