by Abdellah Taïa
Translated from the French by Alison Strayer
Seven Stories Press. 144 pages, $23.95
A GAY, Moroccan-born novelist and filmmaker, Abdellah Taïa has the distinction of having had his first English-translated book, Salvation Army (L’armée du Salut, 2009), appear with an introduction by Edmund White. “Despite the extreme simplicity and clarity of Taïa’s style,” White wrote, “we sense how sophisticated he is—that this is a simplicity that only intelligence and experience and wide reading in several languages can buy.” Salvation Army’s autobiographical gay themes gave the book—in France and in the U.S.—a particular charge. It was followed in 2012 by An Arab Melancholia (Une mélancolie arabe), also an autobiographical novel.
His third novel, Infidels, feels less like a memoir than do its two predecessors, though significant autobiographical elements remain. The impoverished child-man Jallal lives in poverty in the city of Salé, then in the cosmopolitan city of Cairo, where Taïa did in fact spend time as an adult.