Written by a North African Muslim woman under the pseudonym ‘Nedjma’, ‘The Almond‘ is testimony to the sexual lives of women in a society that is ostensibly puritanical to the world. It is the alluring story of how a Muslim woman lost and then rescued her sexuality, her physical desire, her body and her words.
Badra, a young Moroccan village girl, is forced into marriage with a man, a local dignitary thirty years older than her. After going through the milestones of the nuptials for five years, such as daily domestic chores and even daily consummation of the marriage, Badra flees what she describes as “a hideous marriage” to the bright and bustling city of Tangiers, where her unorthodox Aunt Selma lives. There she meets Driss, a charming, refined cardiologist who introduces her to the glory of lovemaking and self-gratification, becoming at once her awakening as well as her damnation. As their passion swells and subsides eventually, Badra becomes disenchanted and draws back from Driss’ meandering arms, losing her ability to love and believe in the opposite sex. Disappointingly, C. Jane Hunter’s translation just doesn’t seem to do justice to the sensationalism surrounding the book, somehow dumbing down ‘The Almond‘’s original dynamism. Perhaps it is the rudimentary form of the English language that turns this into just another tale of a woman spurned, even if in the harsh realities of the modern Muslim world.
The novel is still very heartfelt in emotion, and it is easy for anyone to identify with its subject matter. It reads like an erotic manifesto for women who want to break free of the cultural norms of society and unapologetically demand their right to sexual freedom. Its mere publication is an act of political insurgency. Though at times haphazard in its translation, it is an intrepid addition to erotic literature.
Imaginably, if we were gifted in the language of love, in which this book was originally published, we may be better able to enjoy the literary mettle it claims to be.
Overall Rating: 5/10
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