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2. Suffering Time Based in France, Tahar ben Jelloun is arguably Morocco’s most prolific and internationally known writer. While his career dates to the early 1970s, one could say his fame is due to his prize-winning 1985 novel, L’enfant de sable (Sand Child), and its sequel, La nuit sacrée (Sacred Night). This fame has been accompanied by much controversy, inside and outside Morocco, primarily because he is seen as a writer who caters to the orientalizing gaze of the West. His success is often attributed to a perceived willingness on his part to offer to the Western reader portraits of Morocco and of the Maghreb in accordance with certain exotic expectations.1 Cette aveuglante absence de lumière (This Blinding Absence of Light), based on the memoirs of Aziz Binebine, a survivor of the secret prison Tazmamart, has received its share of controversy. For this novel, ben Jelloun is accused, among other things, of using the horror of a survivor’s story for his own fame and notoriety and of keeping silent and not protesting such atrocities during the reign of the former king, Hassan II, responsible for Tazmamart and other places like it.2 Despite ben Jelloun’s public self-defense, the reception of this book has been affected by his reputation , for, despite its immensely important subject matter and its recognized literary qualities, this novel has not received extensive commentary to date. While neither discrediting nor crediting the accusations, my purpose in this chapter is to investigate how catastrophe and storytelling become linked in this novel under conditions of extreme physical and mental suffering and isolation. I follow the modality of becoming a survivor that unfolds in Murambi by focusing on the duration of this becoming, the duration of surviving and suffering that constitutes the time of detention. Aveuglante takes our thinking further toward the exploration of the conjunctions between body, language, and the time of radical abandonment. Survival in this story is inscribed in the vicissitudes of the detainee’s relationship with time. Eighteen years of imprisonment clearly marks duration, but how to think, remember, and narrate a duration that belongs to a suspension of time, that is, of the time of the world? This question of the duration of surviving marks the difference between Murambi and Aveuglante, for PAGE 51 51 ................. 17176$ $CH2 01-15-09 14:19:18 PS 52 Suffering Time in the former duration remains unwritten. While we know that the genocide lasted roughly one hundred days, this time does not unfold in the narration and as the duration of narration. Instead, Murambi is turned toward experiences of instants that punctuate the narration in the aftermath of the catastrophe. Despite its attempt at narrating the genocide, the ruptures in time and narration, the fragmentation in the narrative voices, and the consistent movements of return, of fading in and out of figures in the story, hint at the unbearable nature of duration, as if the narration cannot bear this duration. Though Cornelius’s story is told in a continuous mode, this continuity does not repeat the duration of the event, its beginning and end. Instead, this story tries to find its bearing in spite of the unbearable effect that the event has unleashed. Cornelius’s itinerary marks the vicissitudes of finding this bearing. After all, Siméon has wisely said that a genocide is not like any other event, with a beginning and an end, during which more or less ordinary things happen. A catastrophe is such that its beginning and end are as indeterminate as its duration. In Murambi, the problems of explaining the origins and causes and effects already belong to this indeterminacy. When did it begin and has it ended? The survivor is the figure of this indeterminacy . We remember that Cornelius was not exiled because of the 1994 genocide but rather years before, during the violence that preceded it. How can the beginning of such an event be marked? In Aveuglante, there is a beginning, a coup d’état that seals the fate of the detainees. But the time of imprisonment seems to be such that this kind of periodization loses its relevance. As I have already said, the catastrophic is instantaneous, even if it is repeated; it is repeated instants, each time singular. The instant is time without temporality or flow, where time does not move. It is the immobility of time, the time of death. Only after the fact, when the instant withdraws...


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MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
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