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The Last Chapter

The Last Chapter

Leila Abouzeid
Leila Abouzeid
John Liechety
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 168
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  • Book Info
    The Last Chapter
    Book Description:

    This thought-provoking, semi-autobiographical book tells the story of Aisha, a young Moroccan woman, and her struggle to find an identity in the Morocco of the second half of the twentieth century. Charting Aisha’s path through adolescence and young adulthood up to the present, her story is told through a series of flashbacks, anecdotes, and glimpses of the past, all bound up with a strong, often strident, always compelling worldview that takes in Morocco, its politics, people, and traditions, Islam, and marriage. Male–female relationships feature strongly in the narrative, and by exposing us to Aisha’s troubled romantic encounters, Abouzeid uncovers the shifting male/female roles within the Morocco of her lifetime. Many aspects of Moroccan society are also explored through the other clashes of the modern and the traditional in Aisha’s life. The workplace and corruption, the struggle for women’s rights, the clash between Islamic and Western values as well as with the older practices of sorcery and witchcraft, and the conflict between colonial and native language use are all intertwined in a narrative that is both forceful and often poetic. Through a series of tales of emotional disasters, the reader becomes aware not only of Aisha’s frustrations but also of her deep commitment to her country and her struggle to defeat suffering, uphold justice, and retain a fierce independence as a woman and a clarity of conviction in her life. Leila Abouzeid is a pioneer among her Moroccan contemporaries in that she writes in Arabic rather than in French and is the first Moroccan woman writer of literature to be translated into English. This stimulating and revealing book adds a new perspective to Maghrebi women’s writing, and is an important addition to the growing body of Arab women’s writing in translation.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-185-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Chapter 1
    (pp. 1-16)

    Studying with boys was reckoned to be hard, like running up a desert mountain at noon. We’d had so many warnings about getting pregnant that we half believed we could do so just by talking to them; as if we were studying with ghouls. Yet I learned to prefer interaction with men. Not that I found them intrinsically more intelligent. But they did not pick at our minds, since they assumed we were born without them.

    This gave me an advantage in class, where the brain I was not supposed to have was generally more than a match for the...

  4. Chapter 2
    (pp. 17-26)

    The relationship with Salim had never been publicly declared, but people knew about it. I am thankful God does not always grant our wishes in these cases. Had it ended in marriage, Salim would have planted his quota of children and run out on me. I soon grew disillusioned with him. It was like learning that what you thought to be a precious stone was cheap glass after all. Now my youth is gone, and I still haven’t found a diamond.

    Husbands in our country are born with an instinct for betrayal. Betraying a mate is as bad as high...

  5. Chapter 3
    (pp. 27-40)

    In the sixties I graduated from high school and went on to university. All together there were about ten of us in my department. The year Morocco became independent, 1956, there were reputed to be just six female high school graduates in the whole country, a direct consequence of forty-four years of French rule. The exact number is not important, what is important is that the French so obviously interfered with our education. The modern university able to start only after independence. All we had got from the colonialists in terms of education was a second-rate knowledge of their language....

  6. Chapter 4
    (pp. 41-50)

    My days in administration shot past, like images seen from an express train window. Our boss managed to keep his hands off public funds and his female employees. He may have been tempted, but if so, he never yielded. He had a scientific and pragmatic mind, and the kind of integrity one does not encouter every day.

    Prevailing wisdom decreed that to be democratic with workers in Morocco was pointless. Everyone said you had to treat Moroccan employees like dirt, otherwise they would interpret your behavior as a sign of weakness and grow slack. Our boss ran counter to that...

  7. Chapter 5
    (pp. 51-74)

    He came in holding a fancy envelope. A dark young man with an afro, wearing jeans, a white T-shirt and Greek sandals. He handed me the envelope and I invited him to sit down. It was a letter of introduction in appalling French. Irritated, I set it aside and, forcing a smile, said, “So you know Isabelle then?”

    “I met her at one of the camps in Tindouf. She works with a refugee organization. But I guess you know all that.”

    “I met Isabelle in Tunisia at a conference connected with the annual women’s day celebrations, though I didn’t really...

  8. Chapter 6
    (pp. 75-88)

    I knew Aisha at school, though I am sure if she were to meet me now, I would mean nothing to her. Yet I do remember her, in spite of my failing memory. Her beauty revealed itself in every aspect. You felt it in her conduct, movement, the way she spoke, the tone of her voice, her laughter. It slipped into your heart and took root there. She lit up any gathering and drew eyes as a magnet draws iron filings.

    Aisha was intelligent too, and that gave rise to mixed feelings in her peers. Their admiration was often tainted...

  9. Afterword
    (pp. 89-94)
    Leila Abouzeid

    My involvement with writing goes back to when I was in the fourth grade. I was in a private school in Rabat where Arabic and French were the languages of instruction. I loathed reading in French and developed an aversion to using it outside the classroom. This early position against the language of the colonialist proved fortunate, as it kept me from becoming one of the post-colonial Maghrabi writers producing a national literature in a foreign language. My intense aversion toward French may explain why I turned to English as my means of communication with the West.

    “But isn’t English,...

  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 95-98)