Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Palace in the Old Village

A Palace in the Old Village by Tahar Ben Jelloun, Translated from the French by Linda Coverdale,
Penguin Books, 2011
Paperback, 192 Pages
ISBN 9780143118473
Library book.

Mohammed, a Moroccan worker who has spent forty years working in a French automobile plant, faces mandatory retirement. He decides to return with his wife to his village and build a grand house where he can stage a family reunion.

His children are grown, they are French citizens, and are assimilated into European culture. One son is married to a Spanish woman, a daughter is married to an Italian. The children have no desire to return to their father's homeland.

A sad story of a family's changing values as children and parents become foreigners to each other, this story highlights the plight of "temporary" immigrant workers. Recommended for anyone interested in finding out more about the experience of Muslims in France. Covers the time period from the mid 1960s through the first decade of the 2000s.

An interview with the author on the Penguin web site is worth reading.

Note: For the French Bingo Card: not exactly what we usually think of when we talk about the "ex-pat" life, but I think Mohammed's experiences qualify.


  1. yes, that will do, be sure to add your link in a comment to the post:
    I have edited the directions and made them easier

  2. Thanks, I've added the link.

  3. I have a different Tahar Ben Jelloun novel I hope to get to this year (L'enfant de sable), but for future purposes I'm glad to hear you liked this one. The plot sounds like something I'd enjoy.

  4. My library has a couple of other novels of his I'd like to read. But they don't have L'enfant de sable Perhaps it hasn't been translated.

  5. Oh, this sounds wonderful too. And it just got ordered online as well... Hmmm, and I thought I had enough books to get me through French Bingo already! I'm intrigued as to what you'll be reading next.

  6. Hi Louise, I have several books going, see My main blog "Reading is not the Challenge" tab. One that I haven't yet listed there is a translation from the French: a strange little book Self-Portrait in Green by Marie NDiaye. I read her story collection (All My Friends) last year and liked it very much.